The first commercial production automobiles were introduced way back in the early 1900’s. Since then, their journey into what they have become today is quite revolutionary. Innovation after innovation, they have transcended from being a solely luxurious possession to an indispensable part of our daily routine. Cars nowadays are packed with so much equipment that along with just the driving part, they’ve made our lives easier. So in this article, we will take look at the top 10 latest car technology innovations of the past decade that have drastically impacted the way we drive.
Before you wish to use your car for anything, the one thing you need to compulsorily do is take the keys. With the rapid rate of advancements and innovations, the conventional car key has almost become obsolete now. Nowadays, smart keys have taken over their conventional counterparts through practically every car segment. A smart key system allows the user to have the key in his/her pocket and unlock the doors or even in several cases, start the vehicle itself.
This system works via a set of transmitters in the key fob and antennae in the car to receive the signals to indicate the presence of the key. After that, the user merely needs to push a dedicated button located on the door handle to open the car door. Cars which have push-button starters also work on the same principle. When the presence of the transmitter is detected by the system, it automatically connects the ignition circuit. Following this, the user has to merely push the button in order to turn on the car. Carmakers, however, still incorporate traditional keyholes and skeleton keys within the smart key fob as a backup just in case.
Wheel lockup is a very dangerous situation which is one of the primary reasons behind car accidents. Thankfully with the advent of electronic safety aids such as ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) and EBD (Electronic Brake- Force Distribution), the occurrence of wheel lock has been eliminated entirely. While ABS and EBD both have been in existence for a long time, their incorporation has only become mainstream in the past 10-12 years. Nowadays, even budget oriented hatchbacks are incorporated with ABS as standard. ABS and EBD work in tandem where ABS prevents wheel lock from occurring and EBD distributes the braking force amongst wheels. Both these safety aids ensure that the car always stays in control during braking and safely comes to stop.
Also Read: Working of ABS Explained
While we are several years away from complete mainstream adoption of hybrid vehicles, micro hybrid engines are gaining rapid popularity in India. A micro-hybrid vehicle comprises of a small motor which is constantly getting charged from regenerative braking. When the car is stationary and put into neutral, it automatically turns off in a few seconds of non-movement. When you have to resume moving, you merely need to push the clutch pedal. Following that, the standalone motor almost immediately cranks the engine and allows you to move forward. While this seems pretty insignificant, it makes a great impact on your fuel usage and pollutant emissions. This technology in India was first seen on the Mahindra Scorpio, following which it has expanded to almost their entire range. Maruti Suzuki also uses the same technology on their Ciaz and Ertiga in the name of SHVS (Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki).
Initially, the speedometer area of most Indian cars had a very small digital monochrome read-out only comprising of the odometer or tripmeter readings. But nowadays, they consist of detailed MID or Multi-Information Display screens that give the user access to a plethora of information. As standard, almost all MID screens show the odometer and trip-meter displays. Apart from that they also show which door is open, which gear is engaged, the average fuel consumption, distance to empty, average speed, tyre pressure, drive mode indicator and many other bits of information depending on the car you are sitting in.
Previously, car tyres had a separate inner tube within the main tyre which only stored the air. But now tubeless tyres are rapidly taking over tube tyres on all 4-wheeler passenger vehicles. While they have been offered as an option for a very long time, it is only in the past decade or so that automobile manufacturers have started offering tubeless tyres as standard from the factory. A tubeless tyre offers a lot of advantages over a tube tyre. The main advantage is that a tubeless tyre does not lose air rapidly in the event of a puncture which is the case in a tube tyre. This allows you to travel a significant amount of distance even after you come face to face with a puncture. Apart from that repairing a tubeless tyre is also a very quick and convenient procedure.
Touchscreens are taking over buttons, be it on cell phones, laptops or various other electronic appliances. Similarly, even on cars, the good ol’ button loaded music systems have been almost entirely replaced by intuitive touchscreen displays. These displays offer the user a multitude of information from the music controls, to in-depth vehicle information and are commonly also bundled with GPS-navigation as well. The touchscreen panel really helps the user as it gives them the freedom to control precisely what they wish to with a single touch instead of toggling through several menus using a physical button. The screens are also getting more responsive with the advancement in technology and should allow seamless usage very soon. Earlier they were found only on more expensive vehicles or sold as aftermarket options. But nowadays they are factory-fitted even on certain A-segment hatchbacks like the Renault Kwid.
Reversing a car into position requires a great amount of peripheral judgement skill. But more often than not, obstacles are less than the height of the rear windshield which implies unwanted collisions. Technology has given birth to a wonderful solution for this problem in the form of a reverse camera. Again, these were offered as aftermarket options for a long time but are now commonly factory-fitted itself. A reverse camera consists of a wide-angle lens that provides a large field of view of what’s behind the moment you engage into reverse gear.
This view is directly displayed on the infotainment screens of the cars they are present on. They also consist of grid lines which indicate how close you are to an obstacle behind you. Often, these cameras also come bundled with proximity sensors which alert you when you come too close to an obstacle. On budget cars devoid of touchscreens, the camera is omitted and only the sensors are present.
Automatic transmissions are supremely convenient to drive. However, conventional automatics are plagued by two major problems, mileage and cost. But all of this changed when Maruti introduced the AMT or Automated Manual Transmission on their trademark Celerio in 2014. The AMT works just like a manual transmission but consists of a hydraulic actuator which handles the clutching and shifting. All AMT’s are factory tuned by companies to suit the kind of car they are incorporated in. Hence manufacturers can program them to deliver the same mileage as conventional manuals and, in some cases, even better! The extra cost you need to pay for an AMT is also quite marginal compared to other automatics. AMT transmissions are gaining rapid popularity and are extensively being used by Mahindra, Datsun and several other companies.
Also Read: How Does an AMT Transmission Work?
Halogen bulbs have been used in automotive lighting systems since their inception. After 100+ years of service, it’s finally time for them to retire and make for more advanced LED bulbs. LED systems have been in existence since the 60’s but have only achieved mass-production levels in the past few years. Now LED lights are rampantly being used in the automotive sector. Be it DRL’s, tail-lights or headlamps, a good majority of the cars are now using LEDs instead of halogen bulbs.
In certain cars like the Honda City, the headlamps, tail-lamps and DRL’s are all LED (only on top variant). LEDs have a lot of advantages compared to their traditional counterparts. The last nearly 50 times longer than halogens, consume only a fraction of fraction of power and run nearly 80% cooler which contributes to their longevity and allows them to operate optimally. The only issue was that they were really expensive to manufacture. Although now, with the rapidly developing technology, LEDs are now just marginally more expensive than halogen bulbs. So, we estimate that it shouldn’t be very long before they take over halogens altogether.
The modern-day smartphone has become an inseparable entity in your life. From laptops to speakers to even your wristwatch, your smartphone can now connect to practically everything you use in your daily life. Similarly, Google and Apple have developed their respective car smartphone applications, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. While their interfaces are marginally different owing to the different operating systems, their core functionality remains the same. Both these apps open a wide range of dedicated modules which greatly enhance your driving experience.
The most useful of them is certainly going to be the voice control module. With it, you will be able to take calls, type messages, play music, use the navigation system all without pushing any buttons and just saying the command out loud. Every new car that is being launched nowadays comes with both these dedicated modules installed. Despite the freedom these apps offer, the functionality is still somewhat limited right now. However, we estimate that it won’t be long before a plethora of features are added to these applications which are bound to strongly influence the concept of driving.