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Halloween: Trick or treat technology in cars

The good, the bad and the ugly. This Halloween, we take a look at the top five tricks and treats in car technology.

Technology in cars has come on leaps and bounds over the past few years, and is now one of the biggest considerations when people are looking to buy a new car. Some of it you won’t know how you ever lived without, some of it you’ll really wish you could afford, and some of it still needs a bit of work.
To celebrate Halloween, we take a look at the top five treats - and tricks - that car technology has to offer.

Treats

“Look kids, no hands”

Got yourself in a bit of a tight spot, or trying to get yourself into a bit of a tight spot? Let your car do the manoeuvring for you. “Look kids, no hands,” you can proudly say as they look on in baffled (bored) amazement (resentment). There’s quite a few examples of self-parking technology, including on the Vauxhall Corsa, Mini Cooper and the Skoda Superb. Some will just take care of parallel spaces, some will also take care of perpendicular spaces, while some systems, like those from BMW and Tesla, allow you to beckon your car out of its parking space from the outside by using your key or phone as a remote control.

Eyes on the road

A head-up display is one of those things you don’t realise is so helpful, until you use it. Without taking your eyes off the road, you can see navigation instructions, your speed, and road signs floating in front of your eyes.
Once the preserve of top end premium cars from the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes the technology is now more widespread and available on small cars like the latest Toyota Yaris.

Aaaand relax

Got a long drive, stuck in traffic, or just had a stressful day at the office? Well, many models allow you to relax in the comfort of your own car… with a massage. Models such as the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class are available with massage seats for both the driver and passenger. You can get a ‘vitality programme’ massage in the BMW, and the Merc has six massage modes, including ‘hot stone’ and ‘workout’.

Don’t be afraid of the dark

As the nights draw in and we’re driving more after dark you learn to appreciate recent leaps in lighting technology. Audi has long been a leader here, its innovations including directional indicators and fancy sounding Matrix LED headlights, now augmented with laser high beams originally developed for night racing at Le Mans. Most premium brands now offer similar systems, though they’re still very pricey options even on top models. Arguably worth it, given it’s only when you’ve driven with them you realise how tiring it is squinting into the darkness with normal lights, the new tech meaning they can stay on full beam all the time, selectively and actively blanking out individual bulbs so as not to dazzle other motorists. Audi’s can even pinpoint pedestrians, cyclists or wildlife at the side of the road and flash the beam at them to alert you to their presence.

Posh picnics

As Bentley says, whether you’re on a mountain, in a city-centre park, or at the polo (where else?), you can now take your Bentley lifestyle with you. The Linley Hamper by Mulliner is secured using a tray docking mechanism, and features fine crockery and cutlery, an illuminated cooling compartment – which keeps two bottles of champagne and your Bentley crystal champagne flutes cold – and an extra compartment for additional items (including a sumptuous cashmere picnic rug).

Tricks

Driving me crazy

Remember when you were learning to drive and your mum or dad would sit wincing in the passenger seat, criticising your every move and even – on occasion – grabbing the wheel? Imagine the computerised equivalent of that as your constant companion and you get a sense of how annoying some of the safety tech in modern cars can get. Sure, it’s well intentioned. And it seems unfair to criticise manufacturers trying to save us from ourselves. But sometimes…
Lane-keeping assistance using cameras to keep you between the white lines are a good example. On motorways they can have you ricocheting off invisible walls as you try and maintain a straight course in your lane and on country roads they’re even worse, steering you back into the verge when you move out to avoid a pothole or preventing you from edging out to the white line to improve your view round corners. Over cautious automated emergency braking that slams on the anchors and brings you to a sudden halt with your hazards flashing when you’re trying to filter in traffic is another teeth-grinding irritation.

Giving it the finger

Much of the new technology in modern cars is there to make life easier and ensure our interactions with the gadgets and gizmos can be done safely without distracting us from the important job of driving. No arguments there. Gesture control, though? Any time you try and use the good old-fashioned volume knob in BMWs fitted with the system it reminds you that you could be waving your finger at the screen instead. Try that and inevitably you end up flailing away in thin air while nothing happens, before the car suddenly decides you meant to call your mum or navigate to Brussels rather than just turn your favourite tune up. After a couple of attempts there’s likely only one finger gesture you’ll be wanting to make before reverting to the physical knobs and switches.

No hands on the wheel

Car manufacturers have been making a lot of noise about self-driving cars for the past few years. While there’s still a long way to go before we get to full autonomy, the technology has come on vast amounts in the last decade. Tesla's 'Autopilot' function is probably the most famous, but in truth, lots of carmakers now offer tech that will pretty much drive the car for you (including steering, throttle and brakes) on the motorway or in traffic jams, as long as you keep your hands on the wheel. The latest Audi A8 was also the first car to offer technology that can achieve the official Level Three classification of autonomy, which means you can do other things - like watch TV or check your emails - while the car drives itself. Before you rush down to your Audi dealer, though, do bear in mind that this technology isn't yet legal in the UK

No, I don’t want to call Abi

You’re driving along and fancy a change of music, so you tell your voice control to ‘play Abba’. Before you know it, you find yourself on the phone to your ex, Abi. While it’s less distracting to speak to your car than fiddle around with knobs and buttons while driving, you may find yourself getting more than a bit frustrated with frequent voice control fails.

Beep!

While it’s nice to be warned about things, so many cars today beep at absolutely everything: seatbelt not on the second you get in the car, beep… door ajar, beep... trying to park, all the beeps… small shrub in front of your car, solid beep… low washer fluid, beep… You get the picture.
Keep reading
We've plenty of spooky Halloween stories, including:
The scariest cars from the screen. The UK's most haunted roads. Most menacing cars of 2020. And much more!

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