Technology » Personal Tech

Tech-Savvy Cars Rule the Road in 2012

by Shaun Knittel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Mar 20, 2012

There was a time, not so long ago, when the biggest innovations you could expect to ship with a new car were add-ons like bigger wheel rims, or a CD player instead of a tape deck.

There was also a time, not so long ago, when wayward drivers had to ask for directions, consult a map or buy a navigation system and install it to the dash, in order to find their way. But thanks to the innovative use of technology in recent years, cars are getting more tech savvy.

From built-in navigation systems and Bluetooth technology to voice-input systems and touch screen technology, automakers have caught up with the rest of us who understand - and have come to love - technology as integrated with just about every aspect of our lives.

What better defines modern life in American than our automobiles? This month, EDGE takes a look at some of most innovative cars on the market.

2012 Audi A7

Who doesn’t love an Audi? I mean, c’mon, it’s a sexy car, so its drivers are all hot (at least that’s the way Madison Avenue sees it). In 2012, Audi offers the option to build your own A7; that means technology choices galore. Choosing between A7 Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige, would-be owners will find the new A7 series loaded with technology that makes driving an Audi safer than ever. A front-and-rear parking system that utilizes ultrasound wave sensors to sense your position and warn when you are approaching nearby objects means you’ll never accidentally "bump" another car or hidden-from-view object again! One of the coolest features is the MMI Navigation plus, which has an 8-inch, high-resolution, full-color LCD screen that emerges from the dash when you start the car. The touchpad interprets handwritten inputs, while dedicated radio preset buttons can be programmed for commonly used stations.

Navigation and telephone functions are all voice controlled. Although everyone offers navigation these days, Audi has teamed with Nvidia to render 3D animations of terrain and buildings for near-lifelike viewing.

In addition, Audi connect turns your car into a Wi-Fi hotspot so passengers can retrieve information on the Internet easily and securely.

GMC Terrain

Designers at GMC call the Terrain the "crossover that stands apart in a crowded small SUV market." It has the capability and cargo space you’d expect from an SUV but the comfort and technology of a luxury sedan. This is the caravan for jock-types who lead their city’s gay softball team or the drag queen "mom" who has to bus around her posse. The mounted rear-vision camera sits above the license plate to allow for a clearer view when parking or backing up, and can be viewed on the center stack touch-screen console. The GMC Terrain also offers USB, Blue Tooth and a 40-gig hard drive with 10 gigs for music storage. Because more and more jurisdictions mandate against hand-held cell phones, this vehicle allows for hands-free operation of your mobile phone. Terrain is receiving most of its applause, however, for its 360 degrees of safety design.

Equipped with six airbags, the vehicle offers a forward collision alert, lane departure warning, ultrasonic rear park assist, and a six-month trial subscription to OnStar’s Directions & Connections Plan; here’s one vehicle that will have the technophile inside you all a-twitter.

Honda Odyssey

LGBT parents (and dog owners) take notice: The technology-packed minivan has arrived. All parents want to keep their kids safe when on the road: to that end, the premium Odyssey Touring Elite model includes an innovative information system that can detect a vehicle that may be positioned in the driver’s blind spot.

A graphic indicator (located near the side-view mirror) alerts the driver to help avoid an accident. Going on long road trips or live in a city plagued by gridlock traffic delays? No worries, keep the kiddies entertained with the Honda DVD Ultrawide Rear Entertainment System with HDMI Technology. Standard on the Touring Elite model is a 16.2-inch split-screen viewing capability screen. Compatible gaming system and media players can be used with HDMI Technology. In addition, this ultimate minivan has a satellite-linked navigation system with voice recognition, a multi-angle rearview camera with guidelines, and memory-linked side mirrors with reverse gear tilt-down.

This is the perfect car to truck you and your "modern family" around.

Ford Focus

This popular Ford model is now techno-talented! In many ways, the Ford Focus is leading the pack for its truly innovative technologies - very cool for an American car manufacturer! MyFord Touch is all the rage; a simple intuitive touch screen, located on the top dash, lets you control your navigation, phone and entertainment. Steering wheel mounted controls (with a display on the dash in front of you) allow you to control additional functions without taking your hands off the wheel or even turning your head. There’s a voice-activated navigation with Sirius Travel Link and a push-button start system. Perhaps the most celebrated of all: the parking technology package lets Focus take the stress out of parallel parking.

Most other vehicles use imaging devices, but with the help of the Ford Focus Active Park Assist, ultrasonic sensors, the car will parallel park itself, with almost no input from you in as little as 24 seconds. How frikkin’ cool is that?

Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf seems to be leading the charge (pardon the pun) for electric cars. For all of you "greens" out there who want a car that can do the same tricks as a traditional gas guzzling, resources-destroying internal combustions engine, this is your baby.

The Leaf offers both comfort and convenience: Nissan Intelligent Key and Push Button start, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, and trip computer. The car boasts a USB connection port for iPod interface and other compatible devices, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and a 7-inch color display Nissan Navigation System. "Carwings" allows the Leaf to monitor the state of charge/charging status, start the vehicle-charging event, and activate the heater and air-conditioner.

Just keep in mind that the Leaf is an urban car. Long weekend road trips are simply not recommended for this 100% electric vehicle.

Volvo 560

Life is not a video game - so don’t expect any bonus points for mowing down pedestrians. Keeping this in mind, the makers of the Volvo S60 Sedan have pioneered a pedestrian detection device with auto braking that monitors traffic in front of the car and brakes in advance of a low-speed collision. The feature works also great in helping to avoid bumper-to-bumper collisions at speeds of 20 mph or under. A radar behind the grille and a camera behind the windshield are the keys to this fascinating innovation.

The feature works up to 500 feet and first warns then auto-brakes if you are slow to react. The Volvo S60 is especially good for fraught driving cities like Los Angeles and New York - or for when that cutie next to you has you... um... distracted while driving.

Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News.


This story is part of our special report titled "HomoTech." Want to read more? Here's the full list.


Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook