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The Best New Automotive Technology for 2019

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Automotive technology is advancing at an ever faster pace. Every new model year seemingly brings a new slew of high-tech features. Not every vehicle is available with all or even some of these features, but it's important to know what's out there and what you should expect to get for your money when it comes time to buying a new vehicle in 2019. Here we'll take a look at some of the new tech you'll likely come across in any search for a new vehicle in the coming model year.

Steering Avoidance

Steering Avoidance

  • What Is It?

As we move closer to a fully-automated future, new features are coming to the market that inch things closer to that reality. Vehicles from Volvo, Lexus and others can be had with steering avoidance systems that are able to automatically swerve to miss objects in the road ahead or keep your car centered in the lane.

  • Why It's Cool

Automated braking systems have been on the market for awhile to the point where they're now offered as standard on a variety of models. Steering avoidance systems are the next step of this feature, and function in situations where coming to a full stop to avoid a collision isn't possible.

  • Is It Worth The Money?

You don't need these systems … until you need them. Right now they might seem frivolous, but if they save you from an accident that could very well involve a pedestrian, you'll be eternally grateful you had them.

PreSafe Sound

PreSafe Sound

  • What Is It?

Mercedes-Benz now offers a feature it refers to as "PreSafe Sound" that will pump a sound of a particular frequency into the vehicle's cabin in the split second before a collision, with the intention of preparing the ear to cope with the pending loud noise of the collision.

  • Why Is It Cool?

This feature protects the inner ear. In the grand scheme of things, this may seem minor. But consider what happens in the immediate aftermath of an accident. Often times, your vehicle may come to rest in a location that places it in harm's way, and having all of your senses at your disposal after the accident can help you to get yourself to safety.

  • Is It Worth The Money?

Probably, but as the feature is only available in high-end Mercedes-Benz models, we won't tell you to go out and spend $75,000 on a new E Class just to have it.

Road Scanning

Road Scanning

  • What Is It?

Mercedes-Benz has long been a first-mover when it comes to introducing new automotive technology. In addition to PreSafe Sound, Mercedes offers a road scanning feature it refers to as "Magic Body Control." This feature uses a camera to scan the road ahead to detect imperfections and adjusts the vehicle's suspension in order to account for them.

  • Why Is It Cool?

This feature anticipates the terrain ahead and allows for a smoother, quieter ride and better overall handling.

  • Is It Worth The Money?

Again, this is a feature reserved for high-end Mercedes-Benz models, and therefore likely won't factor heavily into your purchase decision. That said, if you're going to pay nearly 6-figures for a new car, you might as well have it.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

  • What Is It?

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connect your vehicle's infotainment screen with the operating system of your phone. This usually requires a cable, but a few automakers, like BMW, are now offering it wirelessly. These two systems allow you to access your phone's contacts, messaging, music and, perhaps most beneficially, navigation apps through the infotainment screen of your vehicle.

  • Why Is It Cool?

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay allow you to leverage many of your phone's modern, beneficial features. Without it, many of us are stuck with vehicles running old, outdated, antiquated navigation systems, and navigation is where the main benefits of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are realized. Instead of being stuck with old, limited features, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay allow you to experience web-based search results and the latest apps and navigation features. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay also allow you to send and receive text messages via voice command.

  • Is It Worth The Money?

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have been on the market for several years now and we're getting to the point where more vehicles offer the functionality than don't. For this reason, and given the importance of current, up to date information, we recommend prioritizing this functionality when looking for a new vehicle, and it isn't unreasonable to rule out a particular brand or model for not offering Android Auto and/or Apple CarPlay capability. Typically, automakers either offer it or they don't, and if they offer it, it's often standard across trim levels.

Wireless Charging

Wireless Charging

  • What Is It?

As technology advances, mobile devices are moving away from wires and cables and on to wireless charging capability. New phones from Google, Apple and Samsung all offer wireless charging capability, and as a result, automakers have begun to incorporate wireless charging pads into new vehicles, typically locating them somewhere on the center console.

  • Why It's Cool

How often do you get into your vehicle, realize your phone battery is low, and not have the right cable to charge it? Or, how often does a friend or family member riding in your car ask for a charge only to find that you don't have the right cable for their device? Wireless charging eliminates this variable -- the cable -- and replaces it with a simple system that is compatible with any and all mobile devices that offer wireless charging capability. The ease of using wireless charging means that you'll seldom arrive at your destination with a low battery -- something that, let's face it, gives us all anxiety.

  • Is It Worth The Money?

On its own, a wireless charging pad shouldn't add a lot to the cost of a vehicle. That said, wireless charging capability is typically bundled in with a higher trim level or a technology package, either of which requires the buyer to pay upwards of a 4-figure premium. On its own, wireless charging will become more and more valuable as the years go by and this tech becomes standard throughout the electronic industry, thus helping your vehicle feel modern for years to come. What it really comes down to is whether you value the other features that are typically bundled in with wireless charging capability. By itself though, wireless charging is a great feature to have, even if you don't realize it yet.

Vehicle Control Via an App

Vehicle Control Via an App

  • What Is It?

In our ever evolving connected world, automakers have begun to offer apps that allow us to interact with our vehicle from afar. This could be from across the parking lot or on the other side of the world. These apps can allow you to monitor the area around the vehicle, honk the horn, flash the lights, start the car, park and summon the vehicle and, in the cases of electric vehicles, monitor the battery's state of charge. Always forward-thinking Tesla is a leader in this segment, while Buick, Chevrolet, BMW, Lincoln, Volvo and others offer their own solutions.

  • Why It's Cool

Have you ever considered how antiquated the concept of a physical metal key is in 2018? In many cases, these connected apps allow you to leave those keys at home and truly live in the modern world. Additionally, they make it easier for you to find a car in a parking lot, and allow you to double check from afar whether or not you remembered to lock it.

  • Is It Worth The Money?

If a car company offers this feature, they typically do so at no extra charge to customers, in some cases requiring a small monthly subscription fee. Anything that allows you to leave your old, clunky keys at home is worth it in our book.

High Resolution, Multi-Angle Surround View Cameras

High Resolution, Multi-Angle Surround View Cameras

  • What Is It?

Surround-view cameras have been on the market for a while, but they're slowly moving downmarket and are available on mainstream sedans and family SUVs. As technology moves forward, we're now seeing cameras that can attach to trailers and integrate with the vehicle's infotainment screen, provide multiple angles (including a view of what's in front of your car), allow you to keep an eye on your back seat passengers and even keep an eye on valet drivers. Additionally, brand-new vehicle designs are replacing what are traditionally low-res feeds with crisp, clean, high-res imagery.

  • Why It's Cool

More cameras mean more visibility to what's going on around, and sometimes inside, our vehicles. These cameras offer added safety and convenience, leading to fewer incidents, plain and simple. Presumably, as time goes by, automakers will find even more ways to incorporate cameras into every new vehicle.

  • Is It Worth The Money?

You probably don't need this technology, but it can be extremely helpful, especially in large vehicles and for anyone who expects to do a lot of towing.

Towing and Trailering Apps

Towing and Trailering Apps

  • What Is It?

Towing and trailering apps take automated driving technology and apply it to the often tricky process of attaching, maneuvering and hauling a trailer over long distances. These features include camera systems, trailer blind spot monitoring, special trailer backup controls, trailering checklists and tire pressure monitoring. Additionally, manufacturers have begun to include trailering checklists in their vehicles' infotainment systems along with available tire pressure sensors for trailers that integrate seamlessly with the vehicle's own TPMS system, displaying everything on one convenient screen in the truck's infotainment system.

  • Why Is It Cool?

Towing a trailer dramatically changes both the vehicle's driving dynamics and the driving experience, reducing the margin for error on the road. These systems help to counteract that by aiding the driver along the way.

Anyone with ample towing experience has probably mastered the art that is connecting a trailer or backing down a boat ramp. For these people, trailering apps likely won't add a lot of value. But for people with less towing experience, these features can prove to be invaluable, making it easy for people with a wide range of experience to handle a trailer like a professional.

  • Is It Worth The Money?

As these are mostly software-based systems that rely on sensors and cameras already present on the vehicle, they don't typically add a lot in terms of costs. Additionally, any truck available with this tech that comes with a tow package and/or integrated trailer brake control will typically include it as a part of those packages, meaning that these features really don't add much to the cost of a vehicle, provided you're already looking for a model with towing capability.

Semi-Autonomous Driving

Semi-Autonomous Driving

  • What Is It?

While we're still years away from a vehicle that can drive itself without any human input, semi-autonomous driving features that serve to compensate for human error are becoming more and more commonplace. In truth, modern cars are becoming more "Automated" than "Autonomous." The most noteworthy development in this area is Cadillac's Super Cruise system, which can pilot the vehicle at speeds of zero to 85 miles per hour, allowing the driver to actually take their hands off the wheel. Tesla and other automakers have their own versions of this technology and more automakers are expected to introduce their own versions in the very near future.

  • Why It's Cool

It isn't right to say that these systems allow the driver to focus on other things while the vehicle handles the driving. Each one features sensors that monitor whether the driver is paying attention to the road ahead, ready to intervene in the event that the system fails. This is essentially a fail-safe and absolves the automaker of certain legal liability in the result of an accident. If the vehicle senses that the driver's focus is on other things, it can disable the system and force the driver to resume control. These systems will likely never replace the joy of piloting your own vehicle down a windy back road, but they will surely take the pain out of driving through a crowded city or sitting through rush hour traffic.

  • Is It Worth The Money?

Right now, these features are typically only available on higher-end vehicles. For most people, and especially those who do a lot of highway driving and spend a lot of time sitting in traffic, this technology is a game changer, as it provides a welcome reprieve from the stop and go monotony of the daily commute.

Electrification

Electrification

  • What Is It?

We're all familiar with hybrid and electric cars by now, but with each passing model year, these vehicles become more mainstream. General Motors, for example, has a strong entry in the segment in the form of the Chevrolet Bolt, which offers 238 miles of range at a starting price of under $38,000. Automakers like Toyota have begun to position hybrids at the top of their respective model ranges, as is the case with the all-new 2019 RAV4. In 2019, we expect hybrid and electric vehicles to become more of the norm.

  • Why Is It Cool?

Electrification is the future. Automakers are now being valued based on their level of investment in electrified powertrains. In a way, this is the technology that's driving auto industry innovation in the modern era and should be for years to come. On top of this, electric cars tend to offer a lot in the way of new cabin technology and driving dynamics, thanks to the low positioning of batteries that results in a lowered center of gravity.

  • Is It Worth The Money?

You can typically calculate the payback period of a hybrid or electric vehicle powertrain by comparing the added cost of the powertrain to the fuel savings you expect. Other things to take into account are driving dynamics and performance characteristics of the electrically-driven vehicle. While it's hard to attach a value to these subjective areas, doing so can help you to determine if the vehicle is worth its added cost. In the end, it really comes down to your unique driving needs.

Digital Gauges

Digital Gauges

  • What Is It?

Digital gauges replace old, physical gauges like your speedometer and tachometer with screens. Effectively, these turn your gauge cluster into a second screen, and automakers are making them more and more dynamic with every redesign.

  • Why Is It Cool?

Digital gauges share more relevant information and allow for a better view into the behavior of the vehicle. Digital gauge clusters can typically be configured to display a digital speedometer, various driving modes, navigation directions, information about driving efficiency and more. Audi's Virtual Cockpit system is one of the leading designs in the industry, but more mainstream automakers like Ford and Mazda have adopted their own variations of the digital gauge cluster as well.

  • Is It Worth The Money?

This comes down to what kind of vehicle you're looking for. In a vehicle with a variety of drive modes or high-tech infotainment features that warrant configurability, a digital gauge cluster can be a big help. In a simpler vehicle though, buyers looking for familiarity and simplicity might find a digital gauge cluster to be a bother. Nonetheless, as the cost of screens decreases, digital gauges are moving toward an all-or-none approach, meaning that vehicles that use them tend to do so across the board on all trim levels.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The Best New Automotive Technology for 2019 - Autotrader