New automotive tech gadgets can make your driving experience safer, better connected and more enjoyable.(Photo: chombosan/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
New automotive tech gadgets can make your driving experience safer, better connected and more enjoyable. Automotive technology suppliers are very creative and offer options — for all types of drivers and situations — that you’ll want or may decide you need to buy.
Deciding what automotive tech to buy depends on who you are and what is already on your car. If your car doesn’t have a Bluetooth connection for your cell phone, for example, and your state tickets for cell phone use, then a hands-free Bluetooth system is mandatory, says Amy Gilroy, editor of automotive aftermarket trade publication CEOutlook.
“A new audio system with a high-resolution radio adapter and digital signal processor that enables new radio features and a subwoofer creates a sound that is amazing,” says Gilroy. “It’s a difference between vanilla music and music that makes you say ‘wow’ and engages you.”
Gilroy says 65 percent of cars on the road don’t have Bluetooth audio streaming. Fans of Spotify, Pandora and other audio streaming services can have adapters installed to stream their music from their smartphones. Audio systems that integrate smartphone interfaces into the head unit, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, are becoming more popular.
For improved safety, it’s a no-brainer to get a backup camera and other safety features, says Gilroy.
Your local audio specialist shop or retailer now offers many advanced safety options. For example, there are now advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) available from retailers; these have microwave sensors for blind-spot detection. There are also camera systems for lane-departure and forward-collision warnings, says Gilroy.
“Parents can outfit a car for teens with new ADAS safety features to help them drive more safely,” suggests Steve Koenig, senior director of market research for the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). He notes that consumers are most interested in safety and security.
Automotive gadgets are growing in popularity. In fact, for the 2016 holiday shopping season, automotive gadgets were so popular that one in four holiday shoppers bought a hands-free-kit, portable GPS, backup camera or digital video recorder, according to CTA.
Koenig says that installing a dual-camera DVR (sometimes referred to as a dash cam) in a ride-sharing car — with one camera facing the road and the other facing the passengers — encourages passengers to behave better while also providing a sense of safety. The front camera records what is on the road ahead and, in case of an accident, will document the cause. Dual-camera systems are also useful for parents to see what is going on in the back seat.
Depending on the DVR model, features can include forward-collision avoidance, speed alerts, lane-departure warnings or recording video of accidents, even when the car is unoccupied in the parking lot.
Other popular tech gadgets for cars are alarm systems with remote start that work with smartphone and smartwatch apps. Some new GPS navigation systems now come with a head-up display (HUD), says Koening.
A major concern of automotive tech consumers is the challenge of the installation. Koening advises buyers to make sure the installer is authorized by the manufacturer and is a mobile electronics certified professional (MECP).
“Some consumers are turning to on-board diagnostic (OBD) port devices for diagnostics, connected car features and telematics services,” says Sam Abuelsamid, automotive senior research analyst for Navigant Research.
The OBD port is the diagnostic port found on cars made after 1996, usually found under the dash. An OBD device plugs into the port and then connects via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or a cellular data connection to apps and services. Some OBD devices come with data connections or charge subscriptions to offer OnStar-like features that include vehicle locating, speed notifications, teen or elderly monitoring, geo-fencing, roadside service, driving tips and mileage reports.
Before you buy an OBD device and service, make sure you know exactly what’s offered, says Abuelsamid. He warns that some OBD products may require you to share your location, driving habits and other personal data.
As the price for new-car technology is decreasing, the value is increasing. If you have an older model car and are not ready to give it up, “for the price of a car payment, you will be able to find some very cool tech gadgets,” says Koenig.
This story is provided and presented by Sunrise Chevrolet Buick GMC.
Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA Today Network were not involved in the creation of this content.
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