Technology is an amazing thing. From the internet to the smartphone, it has made our lives much easier and more convenient. The same can be said about technologies in our cars.
20 years ago, if you had a 6-CD changer in the car, you were probably the envy of your friends. These days, you can browse through a music playlist, monitor vehicle status through a screen, and park safer. These advances were reserved for cars with a hefty price tag. These days, you can find them in a humble hatchback.
This kind of scenario is called the 'trickle-down effect'. This is not something new as it has been going on for years. There comes a time when a new piece of technology becomes more affordable and easier to produce that it can be offered to the mass market without bumping up the price too much.
These days, we expect power windows to be the norm, but back then, only big, cushy luxury cars had them and were rather expensive options too. Most of our parents with more affordable cars had to grow up with 'window cranks'. Today, almost every car has power windows as standard and the crank has slowly faded away from the car.
With more and more cars getting technologically-advanced, we list down some of the familiar tech installed on cars today that, back then, were either dealer options, or unavailable for the mass market.
Touchscreen Infotainment Systems
The car's entertainment system can usually make or break a new car purchase, in terms of amenities. These days, the humble CD player and radio just won't cut it anymore. With this in mind, car manufacturers are opting for touchscreen multimedia systems for onboard entertainment.
Much like modern smartphones, pressing buttons to browse through a playlist has been replaced with a touchscreen function. Other systems can even link with smartphones wirelessly by way of Bluetooth and onboard operating software, omitting the need for cables. Some systems even come with navigation; another premium option that is slowly becoming standard equipment on some models.
High-trim models of the Mitsubishi Mirage, Toyota Vios and Honda City now have touchscreen infotainment.
Another thing in particular is the inclusion of Aux/USB ports. With most drivers now storing their music in smartphones or MP3 players, it's pretty uncommon to find a brand new car that doesn't carry this nifty feature.
Automatic Climate Control
Whether it's a dual zone or quad zone, the automatic climate control is slowly replacing the traditional manual aircon. Besides providing each occupant an automatically regulated desired temperature, some models like the Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux and Ford Focus now have rear aircon vents as well. This kind of feature was first used on executive / luxury sedans of the 1990s and is now becoming the norm for some automakers.
Some models even have their own set of controls, but this type of feature is still mostly reserved for higher-end models or brands.
The common halogen bulb is also slowly being replaced with the brighter, high-intensity discharge headlights (HID). Certain high-spec models from Chevrolet and Mazda carry this type of illumination, allowing drivers to see better at night.
With LED technology slowly being introduced to more premium cars, it is no wonder that HID is now 'trickling down' towards more entry-level cars.
Waiting for the 'kickdown' before overtaking was one gripe some drivers had to contend with on normal automatics. This is not the case nowadays thanks to manu-matic gearboxes. It is still essentially a self-shifting transmission, but has the fun and usability of a manual. Gear-changing on a manu-matic can be done in two ways; via paddle shifters or through the gear lever itself.
This is not only reserved for modern automatics, as some continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) and dual-clutch gearboxes also carry this nifty feature. This makes for great overtaking, or for those that want a more spirited driving experience. Do note however that the gear ratios on a CVT are 'simulated' as the transmission itself runs on a series of belts / chains and conical pulleys, not on a set of cogs.
Such automatic models of the Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, Toyota Altis and Nissan Sylphy benefit from this modern transmission tech.
Drivers today can have peace of mind when parking in a tight space thanks to this feature. Only available as a premium option during the mid-2000s, the reverse camera is now starting to be standardized on most cars.
The Isuzu Alterra was one of the first few mass-market vehicles to have a reverse camera as standard. The company then opted to have it as standard equipment on their entire lineup today.
Besides providing a clear view of the rear, some cameras even have guidelines that help show how close the bumper is to another car or object.
What was originally meant to get us from Point A to Point B, is now fast becoming a powerhouse of amenities and safety features. If you’re lusting after those laser headlights, digital instrument clusters or adaptive cruise control, just wait. They could be available in more cars soon.