New-car buyers would do well to spend less time looking under the hood and more time examining all the technology in a vehicle. Of course, the powertrain still matters, but more important is how the driver and vehicle occupants interact with today's increasingly sophisticated automobiles. To help new-car shoppers navigate available in-car features, Kelley Blue Book named the 10 Best Automotive Technologies of 2018.
"Where driving dynamics, comfort and safety are concerned, modern vehicles are steadily marching down a path toward parity. As such, technology has blossomed into one of the last great differentiators amongst competing models," said Michael Harley, group managing editor for Kelley Blue Book. "The tech we've identified as the best for 2018 should be considered when searching for your next new vehicle. Regardless of price point, it shouldn't be too difficult to find a vehicle with most of them – and they're all very helpful."
Technology could be just the thing to convince a carless household to buy a vehicle! Dealerships can target 15% of Americans who do not own or drive vehicles, according to new research from the AudienceSCAN survey.
10 Best Automotive Technologies of 2018 from Kelley Blue Book
Connected Mobile Apps: Most carmakers offer some sort of connected smartphone app, but some are better than others. Look for one that lets the owner remotely lock and unlock the doors, check the status of things like fuel and tire pressure, and even remotely start the car to warm things up on a cold winter's morning.
Teen Driver Technology: Many cars have some kind of teen driver limitations built in that can notify parents if the car is driven over a certain speed, disable the stereo if seatbelts aren't used, and even keep the stereo from being turned up past level 7 — never mind full blast! Chevrolet's Teen Driver feature also offers a Report Card that will tell parents if safety systems like ABS or forward collision alert have been triggered while Junior was behind the wheel.
The new AudienceSCAN survey revealed 10% of the Carless audiences has teenagers living at home. Teens could be the driving force toward purchasing a vehicle.
Adaptive Cruise Control: By using an array of sensors built into the car, adaptive cruise control can match the speed of the car ahead, meaning drivers don't need to be constantly hitting the gas and brake in highway traffic.
LED/Xenon Headlights: Headlights are the only thing between drivers and a crash when driving at night, so Kelley Blue Book thinks better headlight tech is essential. Whether it's LED bulbs that never need replacing or older but still-excellent xenon systems, illuminating the road is the best way to avoid nighttime collisions. Many luxury cars have "swiveling" bulbs that turn with the road to illuminate around corners, while auto-high beam systems will keep the vehicle from blinding other drivers, while maximizing the view of the driver's surroundings.
Apple CarPlay/Android Auto: Plug in a smart phone and it takes over that big screen, replacing it with something that looks a lot more familiar and easy to use. Basically every manufacturer (except Toyota/Lexus) has promised support for at least one or both Apple and Google's systems, but not all trim levels will support them. Make sure to verify the car has the right options, and that it matches the preferred mobile devices.
USB Ports: A car full of people is a car full of devices, and everyone needs to keep their battery topped up. So, check and see how many USB ports the car has. Pretty much every new car comes with one or two, but some — like the Chrysler Pacifica, which has nine (in a minivan that only holds seven passengers) — come with many more than that.
Dealers can talk to carless consumers about these features through radio spots. The new AudienceSCAN study found 31% of them took action after hearing radio (over-the-air, online, mobile or tablet) commercials in the past year.
Rear Cross-Traffic Alert: Thanks to sensors built into the rear of the car, the system can alert the driver to approaching vehicles, shopping carts, or pedestrians who might wander behind the vehicle without the operator noticing.
Lane Departure Warning: Lane departure warning systems use cameras to determine if a car has drifted across a marked lane line, giving a visual or audible notification (or even a vibration through the seat or steering wheel) that the driver moved too far out of the lane.
Automatic Emergency Braking: Automatic Emergency Braking or AEB uses a variety of sensors to determine if a forward collision is imminent and automatically applies the brakes to diminish the severity or avoid a crash entirely.
TV can reach the carless and inform them of helpful tech options. The new AudienceSCAN data reported 48% of this audience took action after watching TV commercials in the past year.
360-Degree Camera: By combining cameras on every side of the car with some clever computing power, the car's display can show a virtual top-down view of the vehicle's surroundings. The systems are getting cheaper and cheaper, and are available on even moderately priced cars these days.