If you?ve been out of the new-car market for three or four years, you may be amazed at the advances in technology that have occurred in such a short time.
When shopping for your next car or truck, you?ll be offered features you might never have dreamed possible, let alone available to buy.
Here?s a sampling of the new features and technologies you may not have encountered yet, ranging from the relatively simple to the incredibly complex.
Tired of fumbling for the key fob and then the right button when your arms are full of packages? Ford has a solution. Just kick your foot under the rear bumper of a 2013 Escape or C-Max and the liftgate will open automatically.
Frustrated by limited visibility when driving in the dark? Several automakers offer adaptive lighting systems that rotate the headlamp beam to help see around corners.
With its High Beam Control system, Mazda takes the concept a step further, using camera-based technology to switch automatically between high and low beams, optimizing visibility except when meeting or closely following another vehicle.
Cameras are also at the heart of Subaru?s innovative EyeSight system ? a pair of them mounted on either side of the inside rear-view mirror. Like a second pair of eyes monitoring the road ahead, EyeSight can detect obstacles in front of the car, send a warning to alert the driver, and even adjust the vehicle?s speed in high-risk situations to help avoid a crash, or at least limit potential damage.
Among EyeSight?s features are Lane Sway Alert and Lead Vehicle Start Alert. The former warns you if your vehicle is swaying within its lane, as may occur if you?re drowsy; the latter sounds an alert if the vehicle ahead has moved away from a stop and you have not yet responded.
Similar features are available in several vehicles throughout the price range, including adaptive cruise control, which maintains a constant distance from the vehicle ahead, pre-collision braking, which automatically applies maximum braking force if a crash is imminent, and lane-departure warning.
Blind-spot detection is also commonplace, but the Honda LaneWatch system in the new Accord takes it a step further. A camera mounted below the outside, passenger-side mirror sends an expanded rear view to the driver?s display screen.
Several vehicles also offer side-traffic alert systems, which warn you of oncoming traffic from the left or right when backing out of a parking place. Some work in the forward direction as well.
Nissan?s Backup Collision Intervention system goes further, applying the brakes if danger is detected while the vehicle is moving backwards. If the driver?s foot is on the accelerator pedal, the system pushes the pedal upward before applying the brake.
Gusting crosswinds can present a challenge at higher speeds on the highway. Mercedes-Benz has addressed that with a Crosswind Assist system. The ESC (electronic stability control) system identifies the effects and intervenes automatically through subtle braking to keep the vehicle on course. Braking on the windward side creates a yaw motion that counteracts the crosswind, reducing the tendency for lateral drift.
Another Mercedes innovation, called Magic Vision Control, addresses the way washer fluid is applied to the windshield. Water guides with minute, laser-cut spray holes on either side of the blade directs the fluid precisely to where it is needed, just in front of the blade lip.
These are just a few of the ways engineers are making today?s vehicles better, safer, and more capable, in ways we never dreamed of.