As the 2006 model year came to a close, thousands of consumers flocked to the Chicago Auto Show in early February to kick the tires on 2007’s new cars. More than 40 manufacturers were at McCormick Place, displaying their new lines of cars, SUVs, trucks, vans, and motorcycles. No matter what the make, model and price, one trend was hard to miss on the showroom floor: the integration of new technology in automobiles.
As iPods and MP3 players continue to saturate the market, in-dash CD players are nearing obsoletion. Honda, Toyota, Ford and Nissan are just a few of the companies that offer iPod connection jacks or auxiliary plugs for direct connection to any audio source in their new automobiles. Honda’s iPod connector even allows the user to navigate through their iPod through the in dash display, although I prefer the simple auxiliary jack, since it is not proprietary and usually much cheaper (or already included).
Driving and talking on the phone is a common but dangerous distraction. With the integration of Bluetooth technology, drivers are now able to wirelessly connect their Bluetooth enabled cell phone to their car audio system. In the Audi A3, incoming calls mute the stereo system, and use voice recognition technology to allow the driver to answer the call. Then, using a built in microphone and the car’s speakers, drivers can have a phone conversation while keeping their hands on the wheel and their minds on the road.
GPS (Global Positioning System) consoles bring maps and directions to drivers in live time. Honda’s 2007 Civic has an optional center panel which looks like an LCD and controls your car heating, music, and features built in GPS technology. Mazda’s CX-7 has a large touch screen GPS panel that can show you where the nearest bank is, and even connects to a video camera positioned so that the driver can see exactly what is behind them when they are backing up.
Environmentally conscious cars were largely showcased this year, as increased gas mileage and lower emissions begin to take a stronger foothold in the market. Hyundai, Toyota, Kia, Honda and Ford were just a few companies showing off hybrid models of their popular lines. Featuring sleek body styles, fully loaded features and engines that even your Uncle Buck has to respect, “green” cars are proving they are not just a fad.
Other trends for the upcoming year include continued support for integrated satellite radio, seatback DVD players and incredible strides in safety. Some notable novelties include Lexus’ new LS460, and its remarkable ability to parallel park itself, and built in wireless internet in some of the new Bentleys.
For many consumers, the auto show provides a rare opportunity to pour over even the most expensive cars, but these days, it’s apparent you don’t have to buy a Jag to get the features you want. Our gadgets are here to stay and the manufacturers are listening to that. The integration of technology to the everyday commute will make driving safer and more convenient. The car of the future is here today, thanks to the synergy of everyday technology and automotive inspiration.
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