Picture this commute to work – You leave your front door, travel mug in hand, and open your car door and start the engine with the press of a button. You never had to turn a key, the wireless fob still sitting in your pocket automatically unlocked the car when you got in range and allows it to be started.
As you begin your drive, you ask your car to give you a weather report and then you tap a button on your touchscreen to put on your favourite radio station. Later, you encounter a traffic jam on the highway and use the idling time to have your car read your e-mail aloud to you. As your car uses its on-board GPS navigation system to find an alternate route around the jam, you place a hands-free call in to work and let them know you’ll be a bit delayed. Meanwhile your carpool passenger is wearing a wireless headset and watching a movie on the same screen that you’re viewing your new route on.
Such an experience sounds more like a fictional scene straight out of Knight Rider, but it’s not as far off as you think. All the features above were embedded into different car models on the show floor at the Canadian International Auto Show. Getting behind the wheel of a 2011 model for your daily commute is much like this blue sky example.
Technology is transforming the driving experience as more car makers offer features that connect drivers to the Internet, entertain passengers, and improve safety. When computers are released to the market in new form factors like smartphones or tablets, it captures a lot of attention from consumers. But cars are fast becoming computers on wheels themselves, even though most consumers will never think of their ride as another computer.
We visited the Auto Show to see the technology embedded into the latest car models from Ford, General Motors, Kia, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz.