Cool Car Gadgets Reviewed

Category: New Cars. Written by Cameron Wong 

Maybe it’s the James Bond effect, wouldn’t we all love to have “Q” telling us to push the cigarette lighter to launch the surface to air missiles from the Lotus? Car gadgets haven’t gone to that extreme (yet) for the general public, but it is somewhat of an arms race between auto makers and gadgets companies.

When it comes to gadgets, the person with the most toys wins. It can be the difference between the average car to that of “pimped out fly ride”.

However it’s hard to determine how effective certain gadgets are until they’ve been on the market for while. These gadgets have been around a few years. Some are useful, while others just bump up the sticker price.

You decide.

Intelligent cruise control:

The Next Generation in cruise control. Using laser technology, Infiniti offers a cruise control that understands the “cushion” between cars. The laser actually measures and determines how close you’re getting to the vehicle in front of you and decreases the acceleration accordingly. The “intelligence” will also maintain that preset distance between cars. Now if they could only get the computer to honk the horn and give that slow-poke a dirty glare while passing, that’ll be REAL intelligence.

This is one that people seem to really enjoy,” explains Frank Hasselbeck, a luxury motors dealer in Kirkland. “It automatically spaces things out, it just makes driving really nice.”

Voice-recognition system:

Cars have been talking for a long time. But now, Infiniti’s Q45 takes voice recognition to the next level. They try at least. Taking commands like making a hands-free phone call has been very doable over the years. But now they’ve improved the other functions like, changing CDs, adjusting the temperature, or navigating the GPS. And you’re English doesn’t even have to be that good. The system understands 50,000 words in 150 dialects and even learns the sound of your voice. It has gotten better over the years. There were certain commands that hardly ever worked, but the 2009 version seems to be the best. However, it’s hard to believe that everything goes smooth with voice recognition. There are still certain 4 letter words, it probably doesn’t understand.

Limp-home mode:

Cadillac will try and get you home. In their Cadillac Northstar engine? Blowing a radiator hose doesn’t mean you’re instantly calling a cab. The Northstar automatically goes into limp-home mode, shutting the gas supply off in certain cylinders and reducing the use of the engine. It’ll make the car just operational enough for you to…limp home. It will also save the engine. However, if you’re already paying for AAA, why not just use that?

Night Vision:

A couple of years ago Mercedes Benz offered the Night Vision feature in their S Class vehicles. It actually turns the dash display into an enhanced image of the road. It allows drivers to see about 50-100 yards further than with their regular headlights. They have improved the feature each year, and while it was an extremely well engineered piece of hardware, and it truly defined luxury in an automobile, it’s not exactly getting bang for the buck.

“It’s one of the more expensive features,” says Hasselbach. “For some people it takes some time getting used to it. When it’s dark, it’s tough to take your eyes off the road to look at the dash display even if it’s an enhanced version of the road itself. I’ve had people tell me there’s a learning curve to it. But the people who are accustomed to it seem to like it.”

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