The basic driving experience has remained unchanged for years—the thrill of horsepower, the smell of high-octane gasoline, and the sound of the exhaust echoing off the hillside. These things have delighted driving enthusiasts since the automobile era was born.
Everything that surrounds the driving experience, however, is constantly changing. What we wear, what we listen to, and how we navigate is a constant reflection of our evolving culture, and it’s all changing our experience on the road.
Setting aside drivetrains, fuel injectors, and superchargers for only a moment, here are some of the latest advances happening out from under the hood.
GPS “SatNav” is hardly new, but its first generations are practically unusable compared to what’s available today. What was once a luxurious option, is nearly standard in higher-end cars (and even some not-so-high-end ones) and its efficiency and features aren’t like anything we’ve ever seen.
But perhaps the biggest step in GPS is that we aren’t depending on our cars for directions at all anymore. Instead, we’re using our smartphones for turn-by-turn directions.
The two biggest players in mobile GPS, Google and Apple, have both made big advancements over the last few years. Google acquired Waze, a popular social app that lets drivers report traffic accidents and jams. And Apple, once laughable for its own attempt at Maps, is quickly improving as it recently acquired GPS startup Coherent Navigation.
Console systems and smartphones are improving together. Smartphones can pair with modern consoles to do almost anything—take calls, read and send text messages, play music, and more. The link between the two technologies has greatly improved, but users still experience some hiccups along the way.
Apple wants to end this with CarPlay, a smart, touchscreen console made by Apple to pair directly with your iPhone. The CarPlay interface resembles an iPad in your dash and has much of the same functionality—apps, music, maps, and more—but it pairs with your iPhone so calls, messages, emails, and social media are available completely hands-free.
CarPlay is available in newer models of Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, and more, and sold as aftermarket units by Pioneer and Alpine.
Even the clothes and accessories we wear have changed. Driving gloves are now made with breathable material and conductive fingertips so you can access your smartphone without removing them.
Sunglasses have become increasingly stylish, and the technology behind their lenses has completely transformed the driving experience on a sunny day. Oakley polarized lenses, for example, block UV rays to help protect the eyes and deliver the wearer a vivid, crisp view.
Check out shows like Top Gear and Fast and Loud, and you’ll see just how much more fun the driving experience has become. But what’s really something, is to see that these shows are highlighting the technology side of the experience just as much as the engines and designs. As with so many other aspects of our lives, technology is playing a major role in our experience on the road. And it’s only going to get better from here!