Gadget love affair carries over into cars

I’ve loved gadgets for as long as I can remember. In the fourth grade, back before remote controls, I wired my TV and lights so I could turn them on from my bed. I had speakers all over my room for a surround-sound effect. It was my introduction to gadgets and total living comfort. I remember that was also the time I fell in love with automobiles. They were full of gadgets and mystery. Where else can you control so many devices from a “captain’s chair?”

Think about what you control from the driver’s seat.

The basics have been there since the earliest days of the automobile, such as steering, throttle, brakes, clutch, emergency brake and gears for the transmission. As automobiles evolved, more devices were added, such as headlights, taillights, turn signals, horn, driver’s side crank-up windows, windshield wipers, window washers and doors that open and close easily. Then came the creature comforts such as heating, air conditioning, radio, rear view mirror and adjustable seat. In the next evolution, even more controls and gadgets popped up to make the driver’s task easier and more luxurious: power windows, automatic climate control, power-heated outside rear-view mirrors, power door locks and remote controls that start the car and operate the doors and trunk. And the list goes on: incredible sound systems; power seats that move in most directions; heated and air-conditioned seats; cruise control; steering wheel-mounted controls for radios and other functions; GPS navigation and two-way communication systems such as On Star; and even interactive voice control systems.

Along with the luxurious and the practical, safety-oriented gadgets and systems have grown by leaps and bounds in modern cars. Safety enhancements include air bags and curtains; seat belt tensioners that tighten in the first milliseconds of an accident; traction control that keeps your wheels from spinning during acceleration; anti-skid controls to help your car regain control in a skid; and anti-lock brakes that stop a vehicle straighter and faster.Xenon headlight are being installed on more automobiles to allow more light to illuminate the road ahead, and some vehicles even turn the headlights as you turn the steering wheel. Some automobiles have new-generation cruise controls that keep the same distance between you and the car in front of you and even start applying the brakes for you if the distance between you and the car in front closes too quickly. Others have a “line detector” that will sound an alarm if you change lanes without using your turn signal or go over the “fog” line. It keeps tired people from making unintentional lane changes. Another modern safety technology is forward-looking radar that will actually apply the brakes if a crash is imminent. It also has the ability to inflate chambers in the seats to position and cushion occupants in the milliseconds before a crash. The windows and sunroof also will close automatically.

When it comes down to it, no other space in your life presents as many comforts, functional controls and safety features in a small space as the driver’s seat of a modern automobile. Oh, and the most important feature of new vehicles might be the fact that they get you where you need to go with great reliability and longevity. The average age of vehicles on the road is at an all-time high, 10.8 years.

Written By George Rode

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