The automotive industry is an ever-evolving hotbed of engineering marvels, ingenuity and innovation. So it’s not surprising that every so often it churns out a product that’s pretty incredible! Whether it be a revolutionary new engine design, or a simple but brilliant camera system, the industry is always being flooded with new tech. In this article, we’re going over our Top 5 favorite recent automotive tech advancements and features (in no particular order.)
- Kia K900 Blind Spot Turn Signal Camera
Blind spot monitoring systems and even blind spot cameras have been commonplace in modern cars for some time now, but Kia’s latest take on blind-spot safety is the best we’ve seen so far. Instead of a blind spot monitoring system that activates a light on the side-view mirror to alert you that there’s a fellow motorist in your way, when you flick on your blinker in the new Kia K900, a camera with a perfect view of your blind spot pops up on the digital dash. Honda has had a similar system for years, but the camera view was shown in the center screen, not the dash, a marked difference and disadvantage compared to Kia’s system. As simple as it is, I think this one is absolutely genius, and look forward to seeing it spread to other manufacturers, or at least other Kias, in the future.
- BMW remote Key
I’ll be the first to admit that this tech feature is more of a gimmick than a practical technological advancement, but it’s so cool! Starting in 2015 with BMW’s release of the G11 and G12 generation 7 series, owners can now control the car remotely with the key fob, along with a myriad of other features allowed by the new “smart key.”
BMW’s practical explanation for the implementation of this feature is that if a parking space is so tight that the driver wouldn’t be able to open the door, they can park their 7 series in front of the open space, get out of the car, and use the remote control key to maneuver the car into the space. Once in the space, the engine can be shut off and the car locked, all controlled by the touch-screen on the key.
Now, if I were the owner of a new $100,000 BMW, I would be avoiding spaces that tight like the plague, to prevent door dings, but maybe that’s just me. Either way, the ability to turn your BMW luxo-barge into a remote control car is pretty darn cool, and will surely serve as a great party trick for those lucky enough to own one.
- Tesla Autopilot
Without the mention of Tesla’s Autopilot system, a list discussing the best recent car tech features would be incomplete. Simply put, Tesla’s Autopilot is trailblazing the next generation of car, and that generation’s hallmark is autonomy. As sad as that may be for people who actually enjoy driving, like me, it’s impossible not to recognize that this is a remarkable feat of engineering. Tesla’s cars are able to read the lines on the roads using cameras and sensors, and adjust the steering, acceleration and braking accordingly. While the system is not perfect, it still allows drivers to become a largely inessential part of the driving equation.
- 360 Degree Camera Systems
360 Degree camera systems were first popularized in higher-end luxury cars a few years back, and that’s still primarily where they’re found (though they have since trickled down to some lower model cars.) Regardless of their application, these systems all work in pretty much the same way: the vehicle’s infotainment computer stitches together all of the feeds from the cameras on the outside of the car, creating one seamless image of the exterior. It’s as if you have a personal cameraman outside filming your car and you’re watching his footage in real time. Higher end systems, like the one in the BMW 7 series pictured above, can generate an image from any angle, but some of the less advanced ones “only” offer a birds eye view. These systems are being used largely as a supplement to backup cameras (if not a replacement) and are massively helpful for parking.
- Mazda SkyActiv-X Engine
Of all the technological and engineering brilliancies listed here, Mazda’s new SkyActiv-X engine is by far my favorite. In a world where the car industry is increasingly focused on electric vehicles, it’s refreshing to see Mazda still putting research and development money into perfecting (and really, saving) the internal combustion engine.
Very basically, this is how it works: Mazda’s SkyActiv-X engine uses Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (which no other production engine has done before), compressing the air-fuel mixture more like a diesel than a gas engine, and igniting the spark plug far later than what would be considered normal. The combination of these two things allow for a much cleaner burn, and thus, more efficiency. That’s about the quickest and dirtiest explanation one can give, and I’d hate to minimize the engineering here, so for a more detailed explanation, I’ll direct you to Jason Fenske of YouTube channel EngineeringExplained.
Mazda announced that they would be implementing this truly revolutionary engine design back in 2017, and production versions are set to hit the streets this year.
While new features still continue to debut at every successive auto show, these are our favorites from the last few. So, if you want the latest and greatest, keep them in mind when it comes time for you to upgrade your car.