Cars are not only getting smarter, they are increasingly becoming software-driven too. Fitted with computer processors, they instantly issue a warning signal whenever the driver drifts out of a lane or gets too close to another vehicle. A rear-view camera helps to safely pull out of a parking space or park safely without bumping into another vehicle or any other object in close vicinity. One no longer requires a map too, as GPS navigation systems are built-in on the dashboard itself to enable the driver take the correct route. In simple words, consumer demand and regulatory pressure for greater safety and fuel efficiency have combined to integrate modern technology into cars.
For evidence, just look at the Ford Figo Aspire. In its seven-day stay with me during the trial period, I was pretty convinced that this compact sedan (Titanium variant) from Ford India, equipped with powerful computer processors, hard drives, smartphone apps, among other eye-opening technologies, is actually smarter than its drivers.
Take safety, for example. Ford has incorporated an innovative feature called MyKey with the Figo Aspire and the all-new Figo. This unique feature allows customers to program their key to a restricted driving mode setting that promotes good driving habits. It seemed like science fiction to me initially, but the Belt-Minder feature in Ford MyKey effectively provides a six-second reminder chime every 30 seconds and mutes the audio system until the vehicle’s front occupants fasten their safety belts. The message centre also displays “Buckle Up to Unmute Radio”.
Over-speeding isn’t a worry as one can limit the top speed at four different settings—100, 110, 120 and 130 kmph with warnings at 70, 90 and 100 kmph. Not only that, the MyKey feature provides an option to limit the audio volume to 44% of total volume as well as provide a fuel warning at 120 km to empty instead of 80 km to empty. Now that’s a truly thinking car, isn’t it?
Among others, there is SYNC with Applink. Ford’s advanced in-car connectivity system allows drivers to control their phone, entertainment and apps hands-free using simple voice commands. In India, AppLink allows drivers to access information about nearby attractions and food destinations with Explore by MapMyIndia, and stay updated with the latest cricket scores and upcoming fixtures with ESPN Cricinfo.
Until now, I used to have a Bluetooth speaker dangling on top of my head which used to be synced with my phone in order to receive calls. But with Ford’s SYNC technology, one can have his hands on the wheel and still answer calls with the press of a button on the steering wheel. One can make calls using SYNC’s voice enabled feature by saying their name or number out loud.
There is hands-free music and entertainment too. One can listen to music, audiobooks or podcasts from just about any media device, any way you like, hands-free. Search, select, play specific titles, change your mind. Plug-in your USB or MP3 player or stream via Bluetooth audio—it’s as simple as that.
Yet another feature that impressed me was in regard to emergency assistance. Basically SYNC is there for you when you need it most. In the event of an accident where an airbag deploys or the fuel pump shuts off, Emergency Assistance uses your paired mobile phone to contact emergency operators and give them your exact location. The microphone is turned on so anyone in the vehicle can speak to the operator, even if they can’t reach the controls. That’s extra peace of mind every second you’re on the road.
One can listen to text messages too. Just ask SYNC to read your text messages out through the car’s speakers for you. Your eyes never have to leave the road. Even if it’s an emoticon or a popular abbreviation, SYNC can ‘read’ it. If you’re parked and want to quickly send a reply, just choose from a list of preset text responses.
Then, there is MyFord Dock; an innovative feature that offers drivers a unique solution for storing, mounting and charging mobile phones, MP3 players and satellite navigation systems, and for integrating these devices into the car’s entertainment system.
The dawn of a smarter car is finally here!