As much as we love our vehicles – there's always that one thing that makes us even love it more.
There is always some feature that probably sold you on buying your vehicle in the first place. It is probably a gadget that you loved playing with every time you’re behind the wheel. After 100,000 miles, that gadget would be worn out from you playing with it over time. Or, it could be the only thing still going after 150,000 miles on the clock.
Maybe it's an aftermarket item you put on that made your vehicle better than it was when you first bought it. It could be those awesome rims matched to the best tires you ever invested in. Maybe it's that audio system you obsessed on how to create your perfect sound inside your vehicle.
What's your favorite feature on your vehicle? Is it the air conditioning that makes things arctic in the summer? What about the heated seats in the winter? You probably like the vehicle information readout in the dash?
Or, rather, one of several driver assistance features found on today's automobiles!
In my case, I can list a few of my favorite features I enjoyed in the automobiles I’ve driven over the years. Some you might agree with. Others – I'll let you decide.
To kick these off, how about a major advance in vehicle monitoring and communications?
ONSTAR: In 1995, General Motors collaborated with Hughes Electronics and Electronic Data Systems to create one of the first telematics systems to be installed into an automobile. The idea was to link the vehicle to emergency services if it was either involved in an accident or was stolen. An antenna from the vehicle links up to a dedicated satellite to relay information – both voice and data – to OnStar's call centers and servers to ease the minds of customers – and save their lives. OnStar is also used for navigation purposes – perhaps my favorite part of the telematics suite. Today, OnStar has reached millions of vehicles around the world. Other manufacturers have followed suit in developing a telematics suite for their vehicles. But, in the end, the original remains the most reliable and the best system out there.
SIRIUS XM: In North America, we are blessed to have an option from boring radio stations that our radio picks up when we're going long distances. Just several thousand miles above the Earth are a series of satellites bouncing off the programming provided by SiriusXM to your vehicle of mobile device with every niche almost possible to humankind. Certainly, I could not listen to every station, but I make sure to program the ones that entertain and inform me the most. On the top of my dial are 1st Wave with former KROQ air personality Richard Blade, BPM with various electronica and trance tracks, Volume – a talk radio channel focused on music and its industry, and LL Cool J's Rock the Bells Radio for my hip-hop memory bank. Let's not forget about the various comedy and sports channels I listen to through this service.
REVERSING CAMERA: Not everyone can crane their neck to see what's behind them, despite the fact that you’re supposed to when you are backing up the vehicle. Then again, there are now vehicles on the road where rear vision is compromised by a designer's ego. For the owners of those vehicles, a little camera can be installed discreetly at the rear so you can see what to avoid when throwing the vehicle into reverse. I use it for guidance, because I still believe in using my mirrors and craning my neck towards the back. They certainly help ease the pain of reversing in areas where judging distance and obstacles can be a challenge.
ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL: Cruise control has been a great innovation unto itself. The ability to set a speed without resorting to having your foot on the accelerator at all times may have made us lazy behind the wheel. Yet, it has resulted in some advantages over time. Such as improved fuel economy. However, there has been one advancement of this system by utilizing onboard sensors and cameras up front. By adding a set distance between you and the vehicle up front, Adaptive Cruise Control works to minimize collisions. The system also kicks in automatic emergency braking, if equipped, to stop the car before rear-ending the one in front of you. Added laziness, perhaps? As a driver assistance feature, it does save lives and reduce stress on longer trips.
SMARTPHONE INTEGRATION: It is the law that you cannot pick up your phone to make a call, answer one, or to even look at the latest drama on social media. As the infotainment system evolves, adding integration of your mobile device has made driving more productive and entertaining. Your playback choices have expanded to use the music files and podcasts from your device. If your vehicle was not equipped with an on-board navigation system – it does now. You can make calls and send text messages by using your voice. These are wonderful things to have in your vehicle – as long as you use them wisely.
HEAD-UP DISPLAY: Driver distraction and creating a sightline between information and the road can be the most critical part of your experience in an automobile. There is a benefit for having a head-up display in your vehicle – keeping your eyes on the road! You have all of the information you need to be displayed in your eyesight – speed, driver assistance status, cruise control information, and so forth. I have found this useful as I crave information all of the time. It is part of my work here. However, this piece of technology is really beneficial for your safety in the long run.
I'm sure that I have a few more features to list here. However, you may have noticed how much technology has evolved to create a better driving experience. Granted, this may cause some arguments amongst you as to how we have given up our driving skills to these technological advances.
To be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way than today.
All photos by Randy Stern