Father’s Day is here, and if you’re like many dads, you’re driving around in an aging family car that boasts a CD player as its most innovative feature — and the only thing newer is that 4-month-old box of tissues shoved in the seat pockets.
Well, if you’re ready to upgrade, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve listed seven cool car gadgets we think most dads will appreciate, especially if their current ride came out when twilight was the thing that happened right before nightfall, not a movie about good-looking vampires.
Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
One of the latest innovations to sweep the world of automotive infotainment is Apple CarPlay (or Android Auto, if you prefer the Google operating system). It’s an excellent, easy-to-use feature that syncs with your iPhone or Android device to essentially replicate your phone’s screen on your car’s infotainment system — a big step up from punching radio buttons in a 10-year-old family sedan.
One of our editors even went so far as to say that he wouldn’t consider buying a new car without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Yeah, it’s that good.
Although it was just a futuristic dream only a few short years ago, many of today’s cars actually park themselves. And not just expensive, top-of-the-line BMW or Mercedes models: The Chrysler 200 and Jeep Cherokee both offer a feature that will automatically park a vehicle in a parallel or perpendicular parking spot.
We suspect Dad will prefer an automated parking system over asking Mom to get out and guide him into a tight parking space using hand gestures.
Although the automated car is still years away, you can tell it’s getting closer based on the number of vehicles that already offer some sort of automated steering system. From the low end to the top of the luxury-car pyramid, automatic steering is becoming more and more common: Even the 2017 Hyundai Elantra offers an optional lane-keep assist system that will steer you back into your lane if you inadvertently start to drift out.
Luxury automakers take a more hands-on approach, with the Mercedes S-Class offering short-term automatic driving capabilities and the Tesla Model S touting a true autopilot feature that works in many situations.
Ford’s MyKey technology might not be something that immediately gets dads excited, but it’s certainly a feature that will keep them from worrying about their new teen drivers — and that alone might be sufficient cause to celebrate.
Here’s how it works: New Ford models come with multiple keys, which can be programmed with various settings. These settings control items such as the vehicle’s radio volume and top speed, meaning that you can program a key just for your teen driver, complete with a safe, changeable limit on stereo volume and speed.
If there’s any one single gadget that has us convinced the future is here, it’s gesture control. Offered as an available feature in a few modern BMW models, including the plug-in i3 hatchback, gesture control actually recognizes your gestures and allows you to use these hand signals to control various items in the car.
Forget pressing buttons, Dad: The next time your teenager gets in the car and changes the radio station, just a quick swipe of the hand will turn it back to classic rock.
Performance Data Recorder
But maybe Dad doesn’t want a new family car. Maybe what he wants is to supplement the communal set of wheels with a new, high-performance sports car that gives him the chance to enjoy the occasional Sunday morning by himself.
In that case, Dad should make sure to get a car with a performance data recorder, which is now offered in some high-performance models from General Motors and Chrysler. Built-in performance data recorders display a wealth of exciting information, such as the amount of G-forces you’ve pulled for your 0-to-60 mile-per-hour time. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning.
Wi-Fi Hot Spot
Yes, it’s true: Many of today’s cars offer a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot. Although this feature is especially prevalent in General Motors vehicles equipped with the brand’s OnStar system, it’s now offered in several models throughout the industry at various price points.
The benefit to dads is obvious: Passengers can use their devices on the go, even if they don’t have cellular capabilities. That’s great news for road-tripping dads with young children, since extra connectivity generally means mellower kids in back — and more peace and quiet in front.
Any of these car gadgets would be a great way to help Dad level-up his automotive game this Father’s Day.