It is arguably the most exciting and interesting period for the motor vehicle since the Ford Model T arrived in 1908 and made passenger cars viable to the masses.
With manufacturers being forced to shift to greener drivetrains and self-driving technology becoming an increasing reality, cars as we know them are going through a dramatic transformation to ensure they’re fit for purpose in the future.
And there are already innovations that have been launched by manufacturers that can extend your travel, keep you connected on journeys and potentially save your life by preventing a collision and protecting you in a crash. These are the 10 best…
Tech fest: This is a list of the 10 best innovations made available by car makers right now
Motoring publication What Car? and security experts Thatcham Research have teamed up for the 2020 Technology Award celebrating the best features you can get in the latest vehicles.
A list of 10 nominees have been chosen by a selected by a panel of experts that have been hand-picked because of the impact they’re going to have on motorists.
There can be only one winner, though – but it won’t be announced until January.
Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham, said the awards are aimed to honour game-changing features, from ‘technology that brings comfort and convenience benefits’ to those that make the driving experience ‘safer and more engaging’.
Steve Huntingford from What Car? added: ‘This is a time of huge innovation in the car industry, with the next few years likely to bring more change than the previous 50.’
So what are the technologies that are going to make a difference to motorists sooner rather than later? These are the contenders for the 2020 award:
BMW’s built-in cameras and recorders that film the lead-up to a shunt
Cameras will monitor the surroundings of the vehicle at all times and record footage before, during and after incidents so owners can supply clips to insurers and the police
Available in: various models including BMW 3 Series Saloon and Touring, BMW 7 Series, 8 Series, X5, X6 and X7
What is it? The BMW Drivers Recroded uses integrated cameras to record video footage from different points around the vehicle, before saving them for USB export or later viewing on the control display.
In the event of a collision, footage of the 20 seconds leading up to impact – and the 20 seconds after it – is saved automatically, providing video evidence of the incident you can provide to an insurer when making a claim.
Thatcham says: ‘Dashcams are very popular with drivers – and insurers – as a means of providing proof in collision situations.
‘This trend-setting tech from BMW enables drivers to record events, helping them to refute bogus claims.
‘In the long term, in-vehicle data will only become more and more important as Automated Driving is ushered in.’
Hyundai’s airbag in the centre console to stop front-seat passengers clashing heads in a crash
Side impact crashes can lead to a driver and front-seat passenger clashing heads. This airbag is designed to prevent that happening
Available in: Kona, Santa Fe, Tucson and Nexo
What is it? The Centre Side Airbag is housed in the centre console and, when triggered, expands into the space between the driver and front-seat passenger in the event of a side impact.
It aims to reduce the potential for head injuries caused by lateral movement between front seat occupants.
Thatcham says: ‘This is a genuine step forward in ‘passive’ safety. Around 20 per cent of fatal and serious injuries are caused not by the collision itself but by the resulting interaction between driver and front passenger.
‘Mounting the airbag in the centre console segregates occupants to offer both thorax and head protection in lateral impacts.’
Mazda’s in-car monitor that measures your eye width to check if you’re nodding off at the wheel
The Mazda3 hatch and CX-30 SUV already feature the brand’s advanced driver monitor system
Available in: Mazda3 and CX-30
What is it? Part of the wider I-ACTIVSENSE array of safety technology, the Driver Monitoring system uses an infrared camera and LED technology to monitor the driver’s eye width, blink rate, and facial expressions to determine levels of drowsiness and fatigue.
It also monitors the driver’s line of sight and eye movements to assess whether they are paying attention to the road.
Driver Monitoring sounds a warning alert if the situation becomes dangerous and will activate automated features such as braking to address the problem.
With driver monitors and speed limiters due to become mandatory on all new vehicles sold in the EU in 2022, this is one of the most advanced systems already on the market.
Thatcham says: ‘This is the first of two pioneering Driver Monitoring Systems (DMS) in contention for the award. We believe DMS is the next big thing in safety technology.
‘The fact Mazda is making this emerging technology available on an affordable vehicle is commendable. We will see DMS fitment increasing in the coming years, which is great news for keeping drivers attentive and safe.’
Mercedes-Benz’s feature that knows when you need to slow down for a tight corner
Mercedes’ speed adaption technology knows what speed you need to be doing for a corner before you can even see it
Available in: Various models including the A-Class
What is it? Mercedes’ Route-Based Speed Adaptation uses map data to anticipate bends, roundabouts and junctions by slowing the vehicle to appropriate speeds.
Once navigated, the vehicle accelerates back up to speeds pre-set by the driver.
Integration with Active Distance Assist maintains a safe distance from vehicles in front.
Thatcham says: ‘This is a step forward in Assisted Driving, and uses mapping and information captured by the camera to automatically slow the vehicle down when approach bends, junctions and roundabouts.’
Porsche’s success producing an electric sports car
Our full review of the Porsche Taycan will be available in December. Find out then if the sports car can live up to the hype
Available in: Taycan
What is it? The 800-volt battery architecture pioneered in Taycan offers twice the normal operating voltage for an electric vehicle, which means faster charging, cooler running temperatures and better acceleration.
Currents are halved, meaning only half the cable cross-section is required to achieve the same power output. This reduces transmission loss so higher continuous power is achieved when driving.
Thatcham says: ‘Battery technology has been a barrier to the wide adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs). Porsche’s innovation will improve usability and help to convert more people to the benefits of EVs.’
Range Rover camera that gives a driver eyes in the back of their head
The new Range Rover Evoque features an innovative rear view mirror. At the switch of a button it will show a live feed from a camera mounted at the back of the SUV so you can see what’s behind you, even if the back window is obscured by a passenger’s head or the boot contents
Available in: Evoque
What is it? ClearSight Rear View Mirror means the traditional rear-view mirror becomes an HD video screen at the push of a button, displaying live footage from a rear-facing camera mounted on top of the vehicle.
This gives an unobstructed, 50-degree view of what is behind the vehicle – great for when lanky rear-seat passengers or boot contents block the back window.
Thatcham says: ‘With modern vehicle design increasingly offering restricted visibility to drivers, this tech reinstates the idea of good all-round visibility and will help keep drivers, along with cyclists and pedestrians, safe and secure.’
Subaru’s driver monitor that tracks what you’re looking at
Facial recognition software built into the latest Subaru knows who different drivers are and can adjust the seat position and door-mirror angles to suit that designated motorist
Available in: Forester e-Boxer
What is it? The second Driver Monitoring System in this list uses a dashboard camera with facial recognition software to monitor eye movements while driving.
DMS detects if the driver’s gaze is wandering, or if they are falling asleep, and sounds a warning alert. It also recognises the faces of different drivers and automatically sets preferences such as seat position, door-mirror angles and air-conditioning settings.
Thatcham says: ‘This is the second Driver Monitoring System in our top ten. Subaru has a great track record in safety innovation and once again is setting new standards, using technology for the benefit of its drivers.
‘This helpful system can not only keep you attentive during long journeys but can also identify individual drivers and pre-set comfort systems accordingly, creating a more seamless integration of the driver into the vehicle’s operating environment.
‘The car essentially knows you as an individual and is ready for you when you get in.’
Volkswagen’s tech that means new eighth-generation Golfs can all talk to each other
Volkswagen’s new eighth-generation Golf is so advanced that it can now gossip about you to other vehicles behind your back
Available in: New Golf
What is it? Any new VW Golf sold from 2020 that has Car2X technology can exchange road data with other compatible models that are within 800 metres, irrespective of make and model.
It also shares information from road infrastructure, such as traffic lights, to warn drivers of upcoming hazards and give current traffic updates.
Find out more about what the latest VW Golf will offer.
Thatcham says: ‘Car to car communication will in future offer significant benefits to enable safer, more efficient driving, reduce congestion and even help with finding that ever-elusive parking space.
‘This new tech introduces a clever crowd-sourced approach to collecting and disseminating traffic and hazard information.
‘Offering it with the Golf 8 will help democratise car-to-car systems and bring them into the mainstream.’
VW’s assistance feature that will bring your car to a standstill if you fall ill
Even if a driver passes out at the wheel of the VW Arteon it will be able to bring itself to a standstill safely
Available in: Arteon
What is it? VW’s sporty coupe features possibly the most complete Emergency Assist package on the market.
It integrates Adaptive Cruise Control, Side Assist, Lane Assist and Park Assist functions to bring the car safely to a standstill in the event of driver blackout.
Before taking action, Emergency Assist attempts to rouse the driver with brake jolts, steering jerks and by sounding an alarm.
Thatcham says: ‘Emergency Assist offers huge safety benefits for all road users in the event of an incapacitated driver situation. Although this may appear to be a niche function, it is essential technology for the Automated vehicles of the future.’
Volvo’s feature that brings your favourite smartphone apps into your car
Volvo has been working with Google so you can get all your favourite smartphone apps in your car’s infotainment system
Available in: XC40 P8 Recharge
Description: Volvo’s new Android Automotive OS is an in-car infotainment system developed in partnership with Google. It allows onwers to embed Google services such as Google Maps, Assistant and the Play Store for apps into their compact SUV touchscreens. Over-the-air updates keep the technology fresh.
Thatcham says: ‘The big IT and technology companies are making significant inroads into the carmaker space. The integration of familiar operating systems is a signpost to the future of vehicle design.
This technology allows your car to be updated ‘Over the Air’, just as your mobile phone does today, with software updates, patches and new features.
It is also paving the way for greater functionality in voice control, which when introduced effectively, will reduce driver reliance on potentially distracting touchscreens and controls.’
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