What makes a car “smart” nowadays? Smartphones, smart vehicles… we generally associate this with better-than-average technology, technology that predicts your next question and fetches the answer for it. Smart cars will change the way we drive, change the way we travel, and change the way we live.
Do you want to know how much would it cost to fill the tank at nearby petrol stations? Or check on a Facebook friend’s latest check-in? Smart cars should be able to deliver such answers and more.
Pretty soon we’ll see self-driving cars available commercially (Nevada, Florida, and California states in the US have already legally permitted autonomous cars!), and manufacturers today are already integrating “smart” technology into their cars. According to a report by Juniper Research that came out in 2013, the market for in-vehicle apps will be worth around $1.2 billion by 2017. This means that the Smart Car will become the new frontier for app developers over the coming years.
#5: Chevy Spark Your Imagination
Chevrolet has always had a solid reputation for high quality cars and is on par with Coca-Cola in terms of brand recognition. The Spark is a perfect example of their attempt at creating the perfect high-efficiency, smart vehicle. It comes equipped with the Chevrolet MyLink telematics /infotainment system, featuring: 7″ LCD color touch-screen, internet / satellite / normal Radio, hands-free phone, speech recognition, MP3 / video player, Bluetooth streaming and AUX/USB port.
It doesn’t pack social media integration… yet, but it does …drum-roll please, 39 mpg/highway. Chevy is bringing its game face when it comes keeping the consumer’s needs first.
Base Price: $12,000
#4: What’s Your Toyota iQ?
Otherwise known as the Scion iQ, this car was introduced in the US in 2011 with plenty of innovation. Not only does the vehicle itself look super slick, it was very purposefully designed, even down to the model’s name. Recent models offer by default the Scion Display Audio System, featuring a color 6.1″ LCD touch-screen, AM/FM/CD/HD Radio, hands-free phone capability, Bluetooth music streaming, and AUX/USB port with iPod connectivity.
For some extra money you can also order the Scion BeSpoke Premium Audio system, featuring GPS navigation services, geo-based services to find local restaurants, coffee, hotels, and weather updates like Yelp! and TripAdvisor, integration with popular social media applications, and access to 30,000 free audio stations.
Base Price: $16,000
#3: The VW Golf
Volkswagen is innovating in ways that will leave most people immensely impressed. Like a lot of manufacturers nowadays, VW is fitting telematics system into their cabins by default. The 2014 VW Golf model comes with the option of 5-, 5.8- or an 8-inch infotainment systems to choose from. The ‘Radio Composition Media’ model, at 5.8 inches and above, is fitted with proximity sensors that respond to wiping and zooming gestures, be it by the driver or front passenger.
The intuitiveness of a touch screen is making our lives much more convenient! The more advanced navigation systems also have an SD slot, USB port, a 10 GB hard drive, and a WLAN hotspot built in. Other features include Front Assist with City Emergency Braking, Lane Assist lane-keeping assistant, road sign recognition, ParkAssist parking assistant, and the automated lighting functions Light Assist and Dynamic Light Assist With the amount of technology packed into the dash, you might never want to leave your car again.
Other selected VW models will be fitted with Car-Net, basically an in-car assistance system that offers safety features such as location-based roadside assistance, automatic crash notification, remote vehicle unlock, destination assistance and more.
Base Price: $40,000
#2: Can SUVs Really Be ‘Smart’? Ford Escape Can
Some people think SUVs are the absolute opposite of smart. This usually comes from the notion that smart = fuel efficient. And it most cases it does, for the little cars. But it does for the Ford Escape too, at 31 mpg/highway, and so much more. But maybe one of the coolest things about this car is the “Active Park Assist” feature. AKA the car helps you parallel park, even in the toughest of spots. It almost seems as if this is an organic bridge between standard vehicles and autonomous cars – and we’re excited to see what happens in between.
All Ford Escape models now have an HOV (carpool) lane guidance option so that the navigation panel will help you route the shortest commute possible. The voice-controlled mapping screens will also show branded point-of-interest icons for places like McDonalds, Shell Gas, and Starbucks to make it easier to find what you’re looking for. Sync AppLink (features vary bu model) puts 2 dozens of smartphone apps (Android + iOS) for media and navigation under the driver’s control with voice commands.
Drivers will also be able to seamlessly sync MapQuest directions from a home or work computer into an app in their car navigation; the old days of fiddling with paper maps or balancing your smartphone maps with your hands on the wheel are over and driving is safer and easier than ever. Ford Escapes come fitted with the usual pack of SD/USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, hands free calling, audible SMS, and HD / internet Radio.
Base Price: $25,000
#1: Ride With the DICE
Okay, so this is still just a concept, according to Mercedes-Benz. But the DICE (Dynamic & Intuitive Control Experience) dashboard concept is so sci-fi, so futuristic, and so innovative that it had to be mentioned. First introduced at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Showcase in Las Vegas, it featured a completely digital dashboard with no hard buttons.
Imagine a giant iPhone on your dash, and the whole thing is controlled using motion sensors with hand movements, swipes and voice-based interaction. Mercedes-Benz imagines that this is what the future of the automobile will look like, and I have to say, I like what I see. The demonstration also showed a projection area that will show you additional information based on the context of what you are seeing as you drive.
Pass by the park? Maybe a blurb will pop up with information about an event taking place there that afternoon. Driving across the Bay Bridge? Here’s some information about when it was built, and how many gallons of paint it took to cover the entire thing (who needs Google anyway?). Is there a Starbucks half a mile up? Today’s drink special, and the Starbucks logo, shows up on your digital dash.
The dash will also link you to vehicle operations, entertainment, maps, and social media. This would have been handy when I visited San Francisco a few weeks ago for the first time; I could identify major city attractions, figure out how to get there, and tweet about how much fun I’m having- all using my car’s built-in technology. I wonder what kind of safeguards will be built in for preventing distracted driving, but I’m sure Mercedes-Benz will have an answer for that too. Driving might just get exciting again.
Expected delivery date for the DICE? 20 years! The full system needs some more ironing and tweaking, but Mercedes models will be fitted with whatever feature is ready for the mainstream. Our money will definitely go to Mercs.