10 major tech advancements in cars for 2016

The news is coming fast and furious (excuse the term) in car tech.

This is the time of year when the news about technology in cars spills out in droves. That’s because the CES expo in Las Vegas took place last week, and now the North American Auto Show is taking place in Detroit this week. (I always go to the first one, then sleep for a few days and don’t ever go to the second one.) Here are a few of the tech highlights to track for this coming year.

1. Ford autonomous driving in winter

In case you haven't been following all of the news in self-driving cars, the one hurdle is that almost every test -- from Tesla to Google to Magna -- involves reading lane markings. Ford recently demonstrated how powerful lasers and sensors could map an entire urban area even in winter and still drive autonomously without any lane markings.

2. Toyota is building the satellite car

It’s just a concept now (and doubly so, since this tech is used on the Mirai fuel cell concept), but Toyota is showing how satellite cells on the roof of a car might work someday. It means more reliable communication in multiple regions (not just the U.S. on cell networks) and a greater possibility of vehicle-to-vehicle communication, a great need with autonomous driving.

3. The luxury car that stops for pedestrians

Infiniti announced the new 2016 QX60, which uses a new tech called Forward Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection. As you might guess, it means the car can detect people crossing front of the car (not just behind you, which has been around a while) and stop if you don’t react in time. It’s intended for slower urban driving around town.

4. This minivan has an “Are We There Yet?” app for kids

The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica has a unique app that runs in the back display for kids. Once you program it with your destination, they can view an animation that shows the arrival time. It’s a nod to the frequent question parents get about “are we there yet” from the backseat.

5. The Lexus LC 500 luxury coupe can handle stop-and-go traffic

Another step on the path to autonomous driving, the Lexus LC 500 coupe -- which has a futuristic look -- uses adaptive cruise control in traffic. The car can brake down to zero and resume, a technology they call All-speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. What’s unique here is that the high-end and sporty coupe relieves some of stress of traffic.

6. First truck bed audio system meant for tailgating

Honda announced the 2017 Ridgeline at the Detroit show, a pick-up with a unique feature in the truck bed. There are six “exciters” which amplify and enhance the audio playing on the main 540-watt car stereo. It’s a first for any truck and a nod to the tailgating crowd at sporting events.

7. Piloted driving in the Volvo S90

I’ve written about Pilot Assist in the Volvo XC90 before; it drives autonomously -- no need to steer or accelerate/brake -- up to about 30 MPH in traffic if there is a car in front of you. The new S90 will drive that way up to 80MPH and without the need for a vehicle in front of you. I’m eager to test this one to see how long the Pilot Assist mode lasts.

8. The Chevy Bolt drives 200-miles on a charge

The big news so far this year is that the new Bolt EV coming this year will drive 200 miles on a charge. For a compact, that’s about twice as far as competing electric cars. Just as importantly, the Bolt is affordable -- it costs about $30,000 after a $7,500 tax credit.

9. The 2017 Audi A4 has a 60-frames-per-second display

The totally re-designed A4 now uses an NVIDIA-powered display running at a smooth 60-frames-per-second. There’s a 12.3-inch main display for seeing Google Maps with another 7-inch or 8.3-inch (depending on options) display above the steering wheel.

10. The Hyundai Sonata uses augmented reality for maintenance

Known as the Virtual Guide, this app for phones and tablets shows you how to change the oil and perform other maintenance duties. You see a pop-up display that hovers over the engine or interior with tips and videos meant to help you complete the task. The app will debut in the next few months and, even better, it will be free for 2015 and 2016 Hyundai Sonata owners.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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