- Car technology extends way beyond central locking these days
- New powertrains, interior designs and connected services
- Which of the following gadgets will you pick on your next company car?
It’s hard to believe that only 20 years ago you still had to physically put your key in the door lock, while nowadays cars can park themselves, navigate traffic jams for you, or display the contents of your smartphone on a large touchscreen.
Here’s a run-down of some of the futuristic labour-saving kit you could soon be picking for your next company car.
Fuel cell cars
Want to drive down your benefit in kind tax as low as possible? One way to do it is with a fully-electric car like a Tesla Model S or a Nissan Leaf, but then there’s the issue of recharging it – and the anxiety of running out of charge.
Combining the advantages of an electric car with the convenience of a refillable engine is the hydrogen fuel cell currently available in the Toyota Mirai. It uses gas to generate electricity and when it runs out, can be topped-up in a matter of minutes.
There are currently only a handful of places to actually fill it up, so it’s not a hugely realistic prospect right now, but it proves the technology can work – and with more government funding on the way, the fuel station network should expand to cope with it.
There are some seriously space-age things going on with autonomous driving this year, not least the arrival of a parking system that you can control from outside the vehicle.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is getting this, as is the BMW 7 Series, and it means you can get out of the car and squeeze it into a tighter gap without worrying about dinging doors. Plus, you avoid all that tedious looking over your shoulder and having to engage reverse gear business - just let the car do the hard work for you.
In a similar vein the Volvo S90 looks like it could be one of the first cars to come with semi-autonomous driving as standard thanks to the Pilot Assist system (also used on the XC90) which both steers and controls the speed of the car in a traffic jam.
Bigger screens, fewer buttons
One trend that is bound to divide the gadget lovers and the technophobes is the migration of auxiliary controls (heating, seat position etc) from buttons on the dash to a menu on the touchscreen like on the Peugeot 308.
While it could be viewed as making tasks harder to carry out on the move, the decluttering effect leads to clean and simple dashboards like the one in the Audi TT. Seeing this trend through to its logical conclusion is the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class, with its super-wide screen, taking in the dials and central display.
Plus, if searching through menus to turn up the air-con is something you’re not excited about, the next innovation is sure to impress.
Imagine if you could increase the volume of the stereo by rotating a finger in the air, or dismiss a phone call with a cursory swipe of your hand.
The technology already exists in the new BMW 7 Series and should in theory filter down to less expensive cars in the future.
A recognition area above the centre console picks up hand movements including pointing and waving actions, in order to control various menus and infotainment functions.
The idea is that you can control the car’s auxiliary features intuitively without having to take your eyes off the road.
It’s likely that the relationship between your car and your smartphone will get closer and closer as time and technology moves on. For now you can use it to lock or unlock the vehicle, locate it using GPS and even fire up the heating first thing in the morning to make sure it’s already warm when you get there.
Practical applications include the ability to check the service schedule and how much life your car's oil has left in it.
Meanwhile inside the car, technology like Mirror Link, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make it easier to share your phone’s functions with your car.