* Head-up displays
Used originally in fighter jets and military aircraft, head-up displays, or HUDs, are now starting to go mainstream. As of now, 38 vehicle models had standard or optional head-up displays, according to Edmunds.com. HUDs project light on to the windshield, creating an image that appears about 5-8 ft beyond the windshield. It is designed so that the driver can still keep his eye on the road while using the information which can show navigation routes and other infotainment data. Audi, BMW, Lexus and Cadillac account for most of the models sold with head-up units and Mercedes-Benz will make head-up displays available on its C-class and S-class models later this year. The main issue for automakers is that HUDs require specially-treated windshields and bulky optical equipment to produce the image.
* Alcohol detectors
Many automakers are working with transport authorities in various countries to introduce technology that can detect alcohol by touch and breath so that fatalities on roads can be reduced or eliminated. With most countries cracking down on drunken driving, technology is one area that has the most potential. Companies in Japan, the US and Europe are working towards technology that would react to a drivers breath, his movements on the wheel as compared to his regular, recorded performance, and whether the vehicle is being driven safely and in a stable manner. There is still a debate on whether the car should be disabled or issue an alert if alcohol is detected, but the technology is on its way.
* Emergency braking
The emergency braking system uses radars and other vehicle sensory information to detect an impending collision and apply brakes automatically to avoid contact or reduce its severity in case the driver is slow to react. A number of automakers have begun integrating automatic braking systems into their vehicles.
* Voice commands
Korean automaker Hyundai will shortly integrate Siri, the intelligent assistant that is familiar to users of the iPhone. Drivers with a compatible iPhone can direct Siri to perform a number of tasks while they keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel. Other companies like Dragon Drive offer an automotive voice-activated platform for cars that enables drivers to interact with in-car systems.
* Nine-speed automatic transmission
A US company recently introduced the worlds first nine-speed automatic transmission. It will first appear on the Range Rover Evoque and some Chrysler models like the Jeep Grand Cherokee. What makes the nine-speed automatic system desirable, especially for owners of gas-guzzling SUVs, is that it improves fuel economy by some 16%, compared to the more conventional six-speed transmissions that are fitted in a majority of cars or even the fuel-efficient continuously variable transmission.
* Electric power steering
Automakers are switching from hydraulic power steering systems and replacing them with all-electric systems. The result is a more efficient system and one that also saves on fuel economy. A hydraulic system meant a pump, a reservoir, coolant, hoses and a gear. Hydraulic fuel leakage was fairly common. All-electric systems eliminate all these and give the driver a better feel of the wheel and the road.
* Camera detectors
It has, so far, been used mainly for parking. Rear-pointing cameras are now fairly common which warn drivers about unseen objects immediately behind thema wall, tree or pedestrians. New technology warns about cross traffic which uses visual indicators in the drivers win mirrors. Future cars will come with multiple cameras or radars to alert the driver of all possible hazards, including night vision, available in Mercedes and BMW models, which detects pedestrians in poorly-lit areas, highlighting them on a dashboard display.
* Automatic high-beam control
Lexus was the first to offer a system that automatically illuminates and dims the high-beam headlights in relation to approaching traffic. A camera detects when the vehicle is closing in on oncoming traffic and dims the high beams. Mercedes-Benz has an Adaptive Highbeam Assist which gradually increases or lowers the light distribution based on the distance of approaching traffic. It also dims the high beams for sharp turns and then re-engages the high beams if there is no approaching traffic once the turn is completed.
* Parental control
Parents with teenage kids will love this. A new GPS system allows them to track the vehicles position over the Internet. The portable tracking device can be shifted from one vehicle to another. It can also alert parents through their cellphone if the vehicles preset speed threshold has been exceeded or if the vehicle enters/exits certain areas.