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The tech in your car

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Photo_Doc Klaus_02_27_2019.png

About 11 years ago I was shopping for a new car. At that time, gas prices were rising and $5 per gallon seemed to be on the horizon, so I chose a Ford Escape hybrid. This car had technical features such as anti-lock brakes, numerous air bags, and security that would disable the ignition if a wrong key was used. And since my house calls are often in, around and beyond Fauquier, I also opted for a built-in screen/navigation system that was loaded from a hidden DVD drive. At that time, it was a fairly techy car. 

Let’s fast forward. 

About 210,000 miles later, it was finally time for a new car, and I was amazed at the smarter technology that came with it: keyless entry, push button motor start, remote motor ignition, car status check via an app on the phone, automatic rain sensor, automatic tailgate opener, a rear camera, and much more.  

Wow! Does it drive itself? We’re not there, yet.  

But just to be clear, although this newer technology greatly improves safety, that does not mean that one can afford to be less attentive. Please remember that texting while driving and/or holding a mobile device is always dangerous! 

My new tech enhanced car is more convenient and safer. The ability to receive and make calls with a Bluetooth hands-free device is a must-have in my business. My new car allows me to accept a call by pushing a button on the steering wheel and initiate a new call by pushing another button to start your preferred speech recognition (the car’s default, or even Siri or Alexa). This allows me to get information and simple answers without moving my hands from the steering wheel.  

I’m still testing the system, but so far it has been like having an onboard secretary to answer questions about the weather, the route, the nearest gas station, schedule a task, call the wife … you name it. The built-in navigation system is even better than the old one, with a bigger screen, traffic info, and more.  

I love the yellow lights on my side mirrors which indicate a vehicle in my blind spot. The “lane keeping” feature alerts me when the car drifts and takes steps to ensure that the vehicle stays in its lane. In addition, it has adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with brake support. It warns me when I get too close to a car, and while cruising, automatically reduces my speed until a safer distance to the car in front has been reached.  

The “side sensing system,” that emits a warning when I get too close to an object on either side is a great help, too. There’s even a park assist feature to help me maneuver in tight situations. My manual describes that “with minimal actions on my part, my new car can virtually steer itself into or out of a parking spot.” I haven’t tried this yet, but it would certainly help when parallel parking on Main Street. 

As a techie, it’s exciting to think of all the possibilities one could download into the car’s computer; I will certainly keep my eyes open for future IT enhancements.  

However, with all of this car technology, one should look into cybersecurity to protect against car hacking. Technology can be misused. There are several movies and many YouTube videos in which cars are hacked to be driven remotely, causing dramatic mayhem.  

That sounds far-fetched, but if it runs with a computer, it can be hacked. 

To wrap things up, I would like to point out some tech possibilities in the perhaps not-too-distant future. Eye tracking and sensor technology may soon be able to determine if the driver is distracted and react accordingly. A holographic info display might project driving directions and 3-D maps. Cars might communicate with each other. Cameras, including ones for night vision, will be available all around the car.  

Keys will be biometric, via fingerprint, voice, or eye scan authorization. The Consumer Electronics Show 2019 presented a flying taxi that might become available as early as 2020. Bosch foresees that “driverless electric shuttles will become a common sight in major cities all around the world.” 

Are you ready for self-driving cars? 

Klaus Fuechsel founded Warrenton’s Dok Klaus Computer Care in 2002 and is known for his German-American humor and computer house calls. He and his award-winning tech team work hard to save data and solve their clients’ computer cases. Any questions? Ask the Dok at 540-428-2376 or go to www.dokklaus.com 

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(1) comment

JustinThyme

In the past, I, like Dok Klaus, would purchase an automobile and keep it until it really wasn't viable any longer - about 10 or 15 years. As long as I took care of the car, it made the most economic and financial sense. However, the rapid pace of technology in the automobile industry is now moving on a par with the IT industry in general - both in terms of hardware and software. And as Dok Klaus points out, the tech in his new car is well ahead of what it was in his 11 year old car, but at this pace, what do you think will be the technology innovations in next year's model or the year after? I'm sure today's autos can have certain, limited software upgrades from the manufacturer, but they will be limited to the hardware that makes up your purchased auto. It is for this reason, that I am now seriously considering leasing my new autos from here on out - upgrading, if you will, every 2-3 years. I don't want to be tied any longer to an auto that I'll own for 10-15 years and miss out on all the innovations, especially the safety innovations. It sure seems to me that leasing just might make the most practical and economic sense in this fast paced technology-driven world.

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