The car of the future today

AFP, Detroit :Cars that park themselves, radar- guided safety sensors and infotainment systems with web access; automakers are competing for customers who now expect constant innovation.The speed at which the new features are migrating from premium models downward and spreading among brands is accelerating as automakers jostle for attention in an increasingly crowded market.”The hottest new technology in cars today is voice-to-text functionality that reads a driver’s emails or texts as they come in and allows the driver to dictate a response without looking away from the road,” Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, told AFP.Automakers have aligned themselves with tech giants to lure customers with increasingly complex-but hopefully still intuitive-systems to transform their consoles into souped-up smart phones.Navigation has been upgraded to integrate online consumer reviews from sites like Yelp, and guide motorists to roadside businesses.Touch screens reminiscent of an iPad have been added to consoles outfitted with apps like Pandora music streaming.Then there are proprietary apps aimed at fixing life’s little problems.Touch a button on your phone and your lost car will pop up on a map. Still can’t find it in the parking lot? Tap again and the phone will honk your horn. Locked the keys inside? Another button opens the door.Worried that your teenager is driving too fast or hanging out with the wrong crowd? There’s an app that will send you a text message if they surpass a chosen speed or leave a designated area.The real challenge for automakers is to make sure all of this technology doesn’t become a dangerous distraction, said Art St. Cyr, head of product planning at American Honda.Keeping it out of the car simply isn’t possible: people are too attached to their smart phones and “don’t want to be disconnected,” he said.