By Allyson Harwood
When it comes to today’s SUVs, cars, trucks, and minivans, electronic tech features are hugely important. These items are now an integral part of how you interact with your vehicle, as well as how your vehicle interacts with the cars around it on the road. They range from safety and security measures to communication and connectivity features.
We’ve put together a list of the best automotive technologies to look for when buying a new car. Some of them serve as safety shields that you will hopefully never need to use, but you can take comfort knowing they’re there. Others assist with parking and visibility. And some of this tech helps you stay connected to friends and family, or quickly contact emergency services. When you shop for a vehicle with these features, the ideal ones make things easier without causing driver distraction.
Here is our list of the best automotive technologies of 2022.
1. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems
This is a category of systems that can ensure that you know when a vehicle is in your blind spot, can keep you a safe distance from the car in front of you, and can keep your vehicle from drifting into another lane. One of the first examples of an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) was anti-lock brakes. These are now standard equipment on every new car. In modern vehicles, there are now dozens of these systems.
These advanced driver assist systems often come in bundled safety suites. Some examples are Toyota /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM -1.17% Safety Sense, Subaru /zigman2/quotes/200526066/composite FUJHY -2.25% EyeSight, Ford CoPilot360, Honda /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC -1.05% Sensing, and Nissan /zigman2/quotes/207656007/composite NSANY -0.96% Safety Shield 360. Even if a model you are shopping for doesn’t have ADAS as a bundle or suite of features, many automakers sell them as standalone options or include them as part of a specific trim level.
Key features to look for
Adaptive cruise control
In some ways, adaptive control is similar to regular cruise control. However, while adaptive cruise control also keeps your vehicle at a set speed, additionally it slows down or accelerates to keep a safe distance from the car in front of you.
This uses sensors on the vehicle to detect if there is a vehicle in your blind spot. It signals that there’s a vehicle there with an alert on your side mirrors. Some pickup trucks also have a blind-spot alert that takes into account vehicles that are next to either side of your trailer while you tow.
If you are trying to back out of a parking space and you can’t see around the vehicles on either side, rear cross-traffic alert will let you know if a vehicle is approaching. This system often uses radar units on the vehicle to detect cross traffic. In some cases, you’ll hear an alert and see arrows on the center screen that show from which direction the other car is coming. Front cross-traffic alert is especially handy when you’re exiting a blind alley or driveway. Some newer systems also prevent you from turning left across traffic if it senses a vehicle is in your path.
Forward collision warning/avoidance
Forward collision warning (FCW) senses if you are at risk of a potential collision with the vehicle ahead of you. Some systems can sense if there is a pending collision a few vehicles ahead. FCW can make sounds, flash display lights, or provide a tactile change to the way the steering wheel or brake pedal feels. Forward collision avoidance uses the FCW sensors and, if the driver doesn’t react quickly enough, adds automatic emergency braking to stop the vehicle.
This feature will alert you if your vehicle starts drifting into another lane.
If your vehicle does start to drift into another lane, lane-keep assist uses steering to keep your car in the lane. If your vehicle drifts into oncoming traffic, some systems will also use steering to get back onto the correct side of the road.
Reverse brake assist
If this system senses an object behind your vehicle while backing up, reverse brake assist can use automatic emergency braking to stop your car, avoiding a collision.
2. Automatic emergency braking
As you can see from the examples above, automatic emergency braking is an essential part of safety tech. When the car senses that a collision is imminent, AEB activates your car’s brakes, potentially avoiding or minimizing an accident. AEB can react faster than a person and can start working before you hit the brakes. If you are braking and it senses you need to stop sooner, AEB can also brake harder than the pressure you’re applying. While AEB is part of many advanced driver assist systems, this is an essential system that may be a standalone feature, and it should be considered a high priority. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automakers are part of a voluntary effort to have AEB plus forward collision warning in nearly all new passenger vehicles by August 31, 2023. Several automakers already have these systems as standard equipment.
Also on MarketWatch: Can you pass this investment literacy test? Almost everyone fails it.
3. Connected mobile apps/digital key
Cell phones are a huge part of our lives. Some automakers understand how important our phones are to us — so why not make cell phones an easy way to use your car’s features? Almost every car company has an app you can download for your car. Some are better than others, but the most advanced ones let you remotely lock and unlock the doors, check the status of fuel level and tire pressure, and even remotely start the car – which is especially nice on a cold winter’s morning.
These apps can also display key maintenance features, such as how much gas you have left, or range in an EV. You can also use these apps to find the nearest dealership, gas station, or charge station. You can even use some of these apps to set up scheduled maintenance.
The digital key has extra security measures built in that tie only your phone to your car. With it, you can hold the smartphone near the door to lock and unlock your car. You can even drive the car with just the phone. It uses several levels of security to ensure that only you – and people you give specific permission to – can get into and drive your car.
Make sure to ask if there is a monthly or yearly subscription fee for the service, as it can vary from carmaker to carmaker.
4. Teen driver tech
This is a bundle of tech features that are aimed squarely at parents with younger drivers in the house. The best known of these is GM’s /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM -2.46% Teen Driver suite of features, which is available on some Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, and Cadillac cars, trucks, and SUVs. Teen Driver serves as a safeguard for new drivers, putting parents’ minds at ease when handing over the key fob. The system can notify you if the car is driven over a certain speed, disable the audio if seatbelts aren’t in use, filter out explicit content (if your car comes with SiriusXM /zigman2/quotes/201205073/composite SIRI -1.69% satellite radio), and can set a volume limit on the sound system. There’s even a report card that will tell parents if safety systems like ABS or forward collision alert have been triggered while your kid was behind the wheel.
In addition, most Ford /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F -2.52% and Lincoln models have the MyKey system. Around for more than 10 years, MyKey allows the parent to configure specific settings in the key (remote fob) for a younger driver. You can program that fob to limit the vehicle’s top speed, keep traction control on at all times, keep 911 assist activated, control maximum volume for the audio, and set up a do not disturb for smartphones. It can also keep the stereo off until both the driver and front passenger have their seatbelts on. Another handy feature is that MyKey can give your teen driver an earlier warning about low fuel.
Hyundai’s /zigman2/quotes/204364212/composite HYMTF -2.98% Bluelink system allows parents to set up preferences for younger drivers in the house. There’s a curfew alert, car finder, geofence alert, and a speed alert. There’s also a monthly vehicle health report and you can set preferences for vehicle maintenance.
In addition, Volkswagen /zigman2/quotes/204431732/composite VWAGY -2.03% Car-Net will alert you if a vehicle goes over a certain speed, what time of day (or night) the car is on the road, and where it’s driven.
5. Safe exit assist to protect cyclists
Riding a bike is a constant challenge in the city. Riders have to be as concerned with parked cars as they are with moving vehicles. A feature that helps riders and drivers alike is the exit warning. The alert uses rear-looking sensors to detect approaching bicycles and traffic. That ensures that a passenger doesn’t open a car door just as a cyclist comes by.
These systems also work when a car is approaching. If you are parked along a street and your passenger wants to get out of the car, those same sensors can help prevent someone from opening the door as traffic drives by.
Exit warning systems work for several minutes after the engine is shut off. If the sensors see an approaching bicyclist or vehicle, they alert the passenger with a series of bright lights. The most advanced systems will physically lock the door by activating the child safety lock to prevent it from being swung open into the path of the approaching object.
6. Wireless smartphone connectivity and charging
Wireless smartphone connectivity and/or charging is a great way to declutter the area around the transmission shifter. Because wireless charging uses a charging pad, that spot in the vehicle serves as a handy storage area for your phone. We recommend looking for a vehicle in your price range that offers both wireless connectivity and charging.
7. 360-degree camera
This is a very popular feature that’s becoming easy to find in new cars of all price ranges. A 360-degree camera is incredibly convenient and easy to use and helps reduce damage to your car.
By combining cameras on every side of the car with some clever tech, your car’s display can show a virtual top-down view of your surroundings. It can show the sides of your garage or whether you’re between the parking lines at the grocery store. It can also provide invaluable assistance while parallel parking.
While reverse brake assist and cross-traffic alert help to avoid collisions when backing out of a parking space or driveway, a 360-degree camera can make sure you don’t hit anything while you’re parking. Not only can this keep your car scratch- and dent-free, but it can reduce insurance claims from low-speed crashes. This camera is a great help when parking a large vehicle.
8. Emergency services/stolen vehicle tracking software
More than 810,000 motor vehicles were stolen in 2020. That’s a shocking number, and it stresses the importance of having built-in vehicle tracking technology. If your car, truck, or SUV is equipped with one of these systems, it makes it a lot easier for law enforcement to find your vehicle – and they can find it faster, potentially reducing damage to your car. For example, OnStar can remotely slow down a stolen vehicle and can keep it from being restarted once it’s shut off.
Stolen vehicle tracking technology is part of the assistance and security systems such as Subaru Starlink, Kia UVO, Hyundai Blue Link, and GM OnStar. Several automakers offer this feature.
But it doesn’t just help if your car is stolen. These systems can also help get rescue services to you after a crash has happened by pinpointing a vehicle’s exact location. That same location information can be used to find someone during a national disaster, to find an aging family member who may need help, or to make sure your teen driver is safe.
9. Blind-spot view monitor
Sometimes it’s really nice to have an easy-to-view screen that shows what’s on either side of your car when changing lanes. This is where a blind-spot monitor comes in handy. It uses a small camera on either side of your car to display what traffic may be in the lane next to you. This can help prevent you from hitting another car or a person on a bicycle or motorcycle. There are different versions of this technology, but we prefer easy-to-see displays within the gauge cluster, such as in Genesis, Ki /zigman2/quotes/206019389/delayed KR:000270 0.00% a, and Hyundai vehicles.
10. Video rearview mirror
If you’ve ever been to a big-box store and filled your SUV to the roof with supplies, you know what it’s like to lose use of your rearview mirror. However, a video rearview mirror solves this problem. It uses a rear-mounted camera that displays the view behind your vehicle. This type of rearview mirror is in the same spot as the traditional version, but you can toggle between the regular and the video view. This type of mirror is also helpful when towing, because it gives you a wider view of the road while allowing you to keep an eye on your trailer.
This story originally ran on KBB.com.