What’s new with car gadgets?

Well, what’s happened this week? Top Gear has started to be tolerable … it only took them 3 episodes to do it! But BBC take note: see what great things happen when you allow the ‘non-celebrities’ onto the main show! Anyway, it’s me, James, back to talk about something to do with cars again …

Dum der dum der dum, Inspector Gadget, dum der dum der dum dum dum, woo hoo!

(Yes, I did actually count out the ‘dums’ and ‘ders’, and I’m in no way ashamed of this.)

The more avid readers will recall my previous piece about James Bond’s cars, and the real-world tune-ups they could inspire. More precisely, the first 25 years of Bond cars, which was either a) A deliberate decision, to give suitable depth of coverage to those early years and permit a future article covering his more recent vehicles, or b) I really like the classics! Daniel who?

All the Bond car stuff got me thinking more broadly about car gadgets, so here goes:

Automatic parking

This is pretty cool, if a little freaky. As you approach a row of parked cars and you want to squeeze in amongst them, hit the ‘park’ button, drive slowly forwards and cameras / radars / lasers / magic will scan to your left until it finds a gap big enough. Slip it into reverse, and the car will steer itself into the space.

If I’m honest, this tech subtly crept up on me – I still had the mindset that it was a sci-fi feature for super high-end cars, like the Merc S-Class or Tesla, but it’s actually now become available as a premium feature on far more mainstream vehicles, including our old favourite the Ford Focus. ‘Active Park Assist’ is standard on the top-of-the-range Titanium X, and is an optional extra on the other models from the Zetec upwards, for between £450 and £850, as part of the snappily titled ‘Convenience Pack’.

Nissan are also getting in on the game, with plans to offer self-parking options across the range within the next 2-3 years, with the tech apparently being tested out in the meantime on self-parking office chairs.

Android Auto

In-car control systems are a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, we’ve got the ‘millions of buttons’ setups and on the other are the more aesthetically pleasing touch-screen systems, whose sleek looks often betray a budget 2008 smartphone user experience.

Cars take ages to design, with lots of decisions being locked down years in advance. That’s fine when you’re dealing with springs and struts and other ‘engineery’ bits, but not so great with the electronics. Hence why all the cool kids, myself included, stick our smartphones to the windscreen for sat nav, streaming music etc.

Which neatly brings me onto Android Auto – compatible cars let you connect your Android (5.0 onwards) phone so that it drives the vehicle’s in-built touch screen – so you get a nice, slick sat nav and entertainment experience, which will be regularly updated.

There’s an ever-growing list of manufacturers getting on board with their 2016 and upcoming 2017 models, including (deep breath): Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Seat, Vauxhall, Abarth, Citroen, DS, Fiat, Mazda, Nissan, Peugeot, and Renault. You can even retro-fit Android Auto compatibility to your existing set of wheels with systems from Kenwood and Pioneer. Never one to be left behind, Apple is said to be working on something similar for the iPhone.

But wait, there’s more!

I don’t quite have space to talk about things like new headlight technology, which, if I’m honest, even my immense writing talent can’t explain in 10 or fewer words. But if you do want to talk about headlights or anything else new and techy, head to your local Perrys dealership for a chat and a test drive. Adios amigos!