THE BEST NEW CAR TECHNOLOGY
Some features are so sophisticated most drivers aren’t even aware of them
What’s coming up and what to look out for,
While electric cars and autonomous driving features seem to get all the publicity these days, there’s a lot more going on in automakers’ engineering labs to make cars better and safer than ever before.
Here are a few of those features that may not be as familiar but are definitely worth considering when shopping for a new car, truck or SUV:
The best new technology you’ve never heard about Chances are high that you’ve never heard of Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control (GVC). Or, if you did, that you didn’t know what it is.
Even if you’ve driven a car so equipped, you probably wouldn’t have noticed its presence for there’s no “off mode” to provide a comparison. But you almost certainly would have appreciated its contribution, whether consciously or not.
This sophisticated technology employs computer software to smooth out steering transitions by reducing engine output, infinitesimally, during the first milliseconds of steering input, thus shifting more weight onto the front tires.
“(The effect is) so subtle that most drivers won’t even be aware of the feature operating,” says Jim Kerr, chair of the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada’s (AJAC) technology panel, which voted G-Vectoring the Best New Innovation Technology for 2017.
Subtle it may be, but it really works. “For drivers, GVC reduces small steering-wheel inputs by almost 50 per cent and provides a feeling of linear control of the steering on all types of roads and road surfaces,” Kerr says.
G-Vectoring Control is being rolled out in multiple new Mazda models, beginning with the Mazda3 and Mazda6. Moose avoidance and run-off-the-road mitigation Volvo Pilot Assist II, with large-animal detection and run-off road mitigation, available in the new Volvo S90 sedan, was chosen as AJAC’S Best New Safety Technology for 2017.
“Pilot Assist II is actually three systems (in one) using camera and radar technology to help keep drivers and passengers safe,” Kerr says. Like some other advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS), the Pilot Assist feature can control acceleration, braking and steering to help keep the S90 in its lane at speeds up to 130 km/h. Where it differs is in its other features.
“Run-off road mitigation keeps the vehicle on the road by applying braking and steering forces if an impending road departure is sensed,” Kerr says.
“Large-animal detection senses the density of larger animals such as deer, moose and coyotes within about a 200-metre range, to determine if they pose a danger, and warns the driver and automatically brakes the vehicle to mitigate a collision if the driver takes no action.”
These features leave the driver in full control of the vehicle at all times but provide automatic assists when required.
Back up that trailer like a pro If you’ve ever tried to back up a vehicle with a trailer attached, chances are it was a significant challenge. The concept of turning the steering wheel left to turn the trailer right, and vice versa, can seem counterintuitive for many of us.
It’s one of those skills that improves with practice, but Ford’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist system takes most of the hassle out of the process.
Activating a dial on the instrument panel transfers steering control to that little knob. Turn it in the direction you want the trailer to go and it turns the steering wheel in the right direction for you. Just reverse slowly and watch the mirrors to be sure you’re following the path you want. Instant expertise!
The Ford Pro Trailer Backup Assist system was runner-up for AJAC’s Best New Innovation Technology award.
ADAS ADAS are now offered in multiple models and many forms, under a variety of different names. Typical functions that fall under the ADAS label include adaptive cruise control, adaptive lighting, automatic parking assist, blind-spot detection, crosstraffic alert and intervention, forward collision warning and automat- ic braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping and pedestrian detection, to name a few.
Often, these features are offered as individual options or grouped within specific option packages or trim levels. Toyota has combined several under the banner Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) and is making them standard equipment on almost all new Toyota models by the end of 2017.
Two Toyota Safety Sense packages are available — TSS-C in compact vehicles and TSS-P in mid-size and large vehicles. Both systems include Toyota’s Pre-Collision System, lane departure alert and automatic high beams. TSS-P adds pedestrian detection, dynamic radar Cruise Control and, in some models, steering assist, which helps prevent lane departure.
Toyota Safety Sense-P was the runner-up for the AJAC Best New Safety Technology award.