New innovations are changing the way drivers interact with their cars — while allowing their vehicles to anticipate problems faster than humans.
Brands are expanding their safety and gadget upgrades throughout their 2014 lineups. More cars, trucks and SUVs than ever before will allow drivers to set their cruise controls to maintain a cushion from the next closest vehicle and automatically slow down when they get too close; alert them when another driver is in their blind spot; and give warnings when they drift into a lane occupied by another car — or are about to back into oncoming traffic.
For its 2014 models, GM is sharing its Cadillac technology with its Buick, Chevrolet and GMC brands so drivers will see an icon in the windshield and get a buzzing in their seat when the driver veers either left or right.
For its 2014 models, Ford is also expanding its turbocharged, fuel economy "EcoBoost" technology to more models, which includes a 2013 option that shuts off the engine of automatic transmission cars at stops to save even more fuel.
Ford also is expanding its popular "MyKey" feature to more vehicles in the Ford fleet. It allows parents to give one key to their teenage children that limits both the car's speed and stereo volume to pre-set limits. The audio system also stays on mute until all of the seat belts are fastened. The key also activates "more vigorous alerts for the safety system and can't be deactivated," said Robert Louisell, business development specialist in Ford's San Francisco region.
Only the parents' master key can be used to disable or adjust the speed and volume limits.
Like other major brands, Toyota and Lexus also are expanding their collision avoidance, blind spot and cross-traffic alert systems to more models — the 2014 Toyota Tundra and Highlander and to most Lexus vehicles.
They're also equipping more models with each brand's multimedia audio and navigation systems called "Entune" in Toyota, "Enform" in Lexus and "BeSpoke" in Scion. The systems are now available in 13 models and come in four different versions — from basic audio controls to a high-end model that allows for GPS navigation and an app suite — all with no subscription fees.
The free, downloadable apps work on IOS and Android devices and link through Bluetooth to the vehicles' head units. Drivers or passengers can then access iHeartRadio, Pandora Internet radio, Facebook Places, Yelp, MovieTickets.com, Bing and OpenTable to make restaurant reservations.