Once mere modes of transportation, cars and trucks have become rolling test beds of technology engineered to make the ride both safer and more enjoyable. Though it may be a few years before they become widely available, here’s a quick look at some of the leading-edge features that are premiering on a fleet of new and revamped cars and trucks for the 2018 model year:
• Hands off.
Cadillac’s long-awaited Super Cruise self-driving system debuts on top versions of the brand’s flagship CT6 sedan.
It affords hands and foot-free driving — though only on well-marked multi-lane highways — by incorporating the car’s adaptive cruise control, blind spot and lane-monitoring systems, and forward auto-braking, with a self-steering function and advanced LiDAR-scanned mapping.
Super Cruise also keeps an electric eye on the motorist to ensure he or she is attentively monitoring the road and will give a series of audible and visual warnings if necessary to refocus on the task at hand.
• Spa on wheels.
Already packing an array of over-the-top amenities, the 2018 edition of Mercedes-Benz’s flagship S-Class sedan makes its occupants’ wellbeing a priority via a newly available Energizing Comfort function.
It adjusts the car’s climate control, seat heating, cooling and massaging functions, ambient lighting, audio system programming, music, video graphic visualizations and even an automatic fragrance dispensing system according to six selectable programs claimed to maximize both a motorist’s overall wellbeing and his or her performance.
• TV to go.
Not only does the redesigned 2018 version of the full-size Lincoln Navigator SUV offer a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot for connecting portable devices to the internet, an available dual-screen rear entertainment system can accommodate a Slingbox media device for live-streaming TV channels while on the road.
• Higher fidelity.
The new-for-2018 Hyundai Elantra GT and Kia Stinger models are helping to improve the sound quality of digital music via the new Clari-Fi system. It purports to restore digital audio signals to full fidelity by scanning compressed audio files for lost details and correcting such deficiencies to create clearer, crisper, wider and more dynamic source quality.
• Better than actual reality.
Hyundai is giving customers of its upscale Genesis line of cars a taste of augmented reality for 2018, via an expanded electronic version of the vehicles’ owners’ manuals.
Available via a free download for iPhone and Android-based smartphones, the Genesis Virtual Guide includes 135 how-to videos and 25 3-D overlay images that pop up on a smartphone or tablet’s screen when the device’s forward-facing camera is focused on a particular spot within the car’s engine bay or interior, along the exterior, or within the dashboard’s instrument panel.
• In-car communication.
Honda is letting parents keep tabs on the kids sitting in the second and third rows of the redesigned-for-2018 Odyssey minivan via a pair of new features.
CabinWatch gives front-row occupants a video view via an embedded camera and dashboard display (parents can even keep an electric eye on an infant strapped in a rear-facing safety seat), while CabinTalk lets both front- and rear-seat occupants communicate without having to shout, “don’t make me come back there.”
• Shut up and drive.
Finally, the revamped 2018 Ford Mustang can help keep the peace with neighbors via a new “quiet mode” exhaust system setting that essentially muffles its riotous roar to a subdued whisper when activated. Once out of earshot the driver can fine-tune the system according to selectable levels of audible aggression, including sport and track modes.