New Car Technology: What's on the Road and What Lies Ahead

Fran
Fran Majidi
August 14, 2019

All the hype about self-driving cars has died down finally. New car technology now tends to focus on safety, security and convenience. That’s not to say that self-driving cars will never exist -- and surely, they will -- but we’re certain that day will come a decade, perhaps two, from now.

For the most part, the technology-forward options of the previous few years are now called safety features across makes and models. There is not much bragging this year about semi-autonomous vehicles and their self-driving capabilities, but there are more of these technologically advanced vehicles now than ever. The features that used to be expensive are now standard in most lineups and the luxury cars have taken things up a notch.

Let’s take a look at some innovative new car technology you can expect to see in most new cars in 2020.

Advanced Touchscreens: New Car Technology, 2020

Tesla, as usual, is a pioneer in technology, this year introducing a large touchscreen which takes the place of the controls, including the shift! Seems like a natural progression, right? Drivers can also use their favorite apps using these infotainment screens. Tesla will not be the only car maker to offer touchscreen controls. Competitors are already moving in the same direction, so this may become available soon in more affordable cars as well. FYI: These touchscreens are under fire by some safety watchdogs for being unsafe.

New Safety Features on Cars

In 2017, auto theft hit an eight-year high. Key fobs were turning out to be the culprit. Now, the Hyundai Sonata has a digital key that lets you open the car door with a smartphone. Keyless entry is just safer this way. The way it works is this: You program the system with up to four phones, and the car senses when the phone is close to the door. It can also start and stop with the push of a button.

Cadillac and Volvo both have in-car cameras. These in-cabin cameras can correct behavior, like falling asleep behind the wheel. The Volvo sensors can address intoxication and distracted driving. The Cadillac can sense when the driver is falling asleep.

Self-driving Safety Features

The new car technology of the past year shows a clear direction towards fully self-driving cars. Lane-keeping assistance, lane departure warning system and automatic emergency braking are features we’re seeing in many new luxury cars. This feature relies on the car’s cameras to sense lane lines. They do not work as efficiently when lines are faint or are obscured with snow or dirt. Some models perform better than others. According to Consumer Reports, the most effective lane departure warning systems are made by Jeep, Buick, Cadillac and Hyundai. The best for lane keeping: Tesla, Kia and Cadillac and Genesis.

Tesla uses the most advanced lane assist system with Autopilot. The Autopilot package includes features like lane-keeping assist and also automatic lane changing without driver input.

Both the lane departure warning system and the lane keeping assist will keep drowsy/sleepy or distracted drivers safer. How well they sense passengers or cyclists remains to be seen, however.

Automatic emergency braking (AEB) detects an impending forward crash with another vehicle or object in time to avoid a crash. First, it alerts the driver. If the driver doesn’t respond, the AEB system will automatically apply and prevent the crash. The automatic emergency braking system may be new and expensive now but automakers are looking to make this a standard in all vehicles by 2022.

New Battery Technology for Electric Cars

New green car technology is advancing rapidly every year. The battery of an electric car is the most important part, which dictates a car’s range. The U.S. Department of Energy is funding a program to create 500 Wh/kg battery cells. And a Swiss startup called Innolith claims that its new high-density lithium-ion battery has a range of 1,000 Wh/kg and is rechargeable. Innolith uses “wet” electrolytes in lithium batteries to create energy.

Does this mean the liquid battery technology you’ve been hearing about here? No, but in the future you may see liquid battery pumps popping up in converted gas stations to replace gasoline. The battery would utilize electrolytes that charge batteries and can be refilled. For now, there is no such thing on the market but it is being tested. If or when this innovation takes over, it will likely be called a flow battery or refillable battery.

Other researchers are looking to improve upon the lithium-ion battery for electric cars. Honda is experimenting with a new fluoride-ion battery. They are currently testing to find ways of creating 300 miles of range or more with cheaper battery packs. The battery of an electric car is the most important feature that car buyers consider, so the future. For automakers, this breakthrough would greatly reduce the environmental damage that results in refining lithium and cobalt, which are currently used.

New Car Engine Technology

Gas engine cars are not obsolete quite yet. Carmakers have been updating gasoline engines with these features: variable valve timing and lift to make their cars much more gas efficient (5% more efficient!). This technology allows the engine to do less work, which prolongs the life of the engine while saving gas.

Cylinder deactivation is also something some cars are doing well, by shutting down some of the cylinders when they’re not needed. If you’re not speeding, your cylinders shouldn’t be working hard. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, cylinder deactivation technology can improve gas efficiency by 7.5%.

Other money-saving new car engine technological advances include direct fuel injection, which delivers fuel to the engine more directly, and turbochargers, which are like direct fuel injection but for air to enter the engine, not fuel.

Get Free Insurance Quotes

If you have a car with the latest safety features, you may qualify for a discount. New cars can be expensive to insure because the cameras and sensors are expensive to repair and replace. You can save money by making sure you’re getting the best rate for the best coverage, so compare car insurance quotes.

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