By on July 3, 2008

fx50-parking.jpgOK, OK. I get it. Cars need less tech 'cause they're too heavy and gas and the polar bears and all that. BUT I saw something today that (kinda) changed my mind. Driving around Hollywood in an Infiniti FX50, my friend went to parallel park the sharp-looking beast. He shifts it into reverse and besides the de rigeur backup camera, the screen also showed a picture of the FX from above with video images of all four sides. No joke, I could see not only the curb, but the white markings painted on the street to indicate a spot. I kept looking and staring and asked, "Is that a satellite image?" I got laughed at. My poor little brain just couldn't handle the fact that four separate cameras were transmitting info back into the vehicle. But, they were. Brilliant. How many times have you smashed a tire or wheel or worse while backing into a spot? If you're me, many times. Conclusion, I love it. What's your favorite new piece of tech?

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55 Comments on “Question of the Day: What’s Your Favorite Piece of New Tech?...”

  • avatar

    1. Dolby Surround Sound. Walk Between the Raindrops never sounded so damn good.

    2. Drop-down DVD screen. The kids never sounded so damn quiet.

  • avatar

    Blind spot warning system and USB input on car stereos.

  • avatar

    Favorites: none.

    Least favorite: Bluetooth in our Toyota. You have to bellow to be heard above the surrounding noise, and it has a delay just like long-distance phone calls did in the 70’s.

  • avatar

    DSG transmissions.

    That “XWD/eLSD” all-wheel drive system on the new Saab 9-3 sounds cool too, but I haven’t been able to experience it for myself yet.

  • avatar

    Stupidest nonsense I ever heard of! I mean – BACKUP CAMERAS??!! I remember when they gave you windows! How great was that!!?? I even hate the automatic transmission! Kids are quiet when you relate with them while driving, cars park fine when YOU park them, and, well, just shut the stuff off and DRIVE! Actually, okay, you got me – I like the CD changer. Switching those things around is way hairier than the phone, and they DO sound so much better than the tape or radio. Otherwise, what’s to like??!!

  • avatar

    I have several, but the first I thought of was integrated Bluetooth. My little earpiece is always dead, and has to be charged on AC power in the house. Built into the car is so much nicer.

    Runner-ups include navigation, flip-down DVD screens, satellite radio, and iPod integration.

  • avatar
    Brendon from Canada

    Meh…. sunroof maybe? Actually, I do like remote controlled auto-down windows/sunroof. Very nice in the summer to be able to get into a less stifling car….

    baabthesaab – I did a custom head-unit/rear seat lcd system with 3 lcds (passenger (for setup only!)/2 rear seats) in order to entertain the kid(s) on longer trips (we often do 5+ hours). While my 2 year old daughter will watch a half hour long program, she quickly gets board with the TV (perhaps because she doesn’t watch it at home). It turns out that on longer trips a cheap lap-table and some play-dough are much more entertaining (and educational) then the old tube – who knew?!

  • avatar

    I was at an Infinity dealer test driving a G35. When we got back to the dealership we went inside and they were just unveiling the FX50 at this dealership, not only does it have the surround cameras, but it will let you know if you start to leave your lane on a highway, and there was something about the paint and not getting small scratches in it. It was pretty insane, it’s a shame its all in an SUV.

  • avatar

    The only “tech” I want in my car is air conditioning. That was pretty new sometime around 1955.

    My car is a 1984. Aside from the aftermarket radio, there’s no electronics in my car more complex than a diode. And I like it that way.

  • avatar

    How about we teach people to drive so they don’t need a system to tell them that they’re leaving their lane…EFI and a radio with aux input are all the tech I want in my car. Keep it simple, and it doesn’t break!

  • avatar

    It’s hard to tell from searching, but does this FX50 do the automatic parallel parking trick? In a sane world, lane departure warning systems should be offered to everyone.

    The stuff I like doesn’t exist yet:

    1. forward thermal/night imaging system (to replace the wasteful and irritating headlights at night)
    2. HUD display for vehicle information (keeps the eyes up)
    3. autonomous driving (the final solution to driver fatigue)

    Stuff that exists today, the best is easily GPS navigation.

    No. More. Paper. Maps.

    An entire continent of map, auto-routing, voice interaction, and so on.

  • avatar

    In terms of mundane technology: either the sorely-missed plastic panels of original Saturn, the Honda Fit’s “magic” seats or Saab’s night panel. Nice little touches that make so much sense it’s suprising that no one thought of them before. Honourable mention to tilt/telescoping steering, auto-off headlights and retained accessory power.

    Less mundane: stability control and idle-stop. These should be must-haves on every vehicle.

    Gee-whiz level: Ford’s Sync. Note to BMW/Audi/MB/Acura: this is how it’s done: no gimmicky menu systems, byzantine options or brick-think manuals, just quick and easy.

  • avatar

    auxiliary audio inputs are the best thing since the CD player. USB ports are even better. iPod connections are of no use to me, and in-car hard drive storage seems hit-or-miss.

    Other than that, I just want everything to work all the time. The Around View Monitor on that Infiniti is pretty nifty, though. I can appreciate technology, but I just don’t see the point of paying for most of it.

  • avatar

    Craigles: How about we teach people to drive so they don’t need a system to tell them that they’re leaving their lane

    As well trained as someone can be, stuff still happens. Driver fatigue is probably the largest danger to long haul motorists after the drunks. Systems that mitigate this risk should be welcomed — be they rumble strips, guard rails, and even in-car lane-departure warning systems.

  • avatar

    The only technology I like is air conditioning. If you get a small enough 2 door, you can live without power windows and power locks.

    Least favorite is cell phones – the roads are littered with clueless morons driving around while yakking endlessly on the things.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    Can we include satellite radio? Because I love my Sirius.

  • avatar

    That little sensor that knows when it’s time to activate the wipers. Godly.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Integrated sat-nav systems. It takes a lot of stress out of finding your way to unfamiliar places and let’s the driver focus on driving instead of fumbling with maps and squinting at non-existent road signs. For years I thought these systems were a stupid gimmick, but they got better and I got less pig headed. Yes, I know the portable ones are cheaper, but I have yet to find a portable with a nice big screen and seamless integration.

    P.S. There are some really horrible built-in ones out there, often in German make vehicles.

  • avatar

    Mdf… All of those cool “futuristic things” … they already are options on the Mercedes Benz S class. 3rd generation Night vision cameras for night time, a Heads Up Display that will show your speed, the time and other information. … And Autonomous driving is solved by the radar guided cruise control. The car will match the speed of the vehicle directly ahead, and it will follow it 150 yards behind. all you have to do is keep the car going straight. … But in 5 years all of those things will be options on ford sedans!

  • avatar

    ABS and Stability Control

  • avatar
    Jon Paul

    Air conditioning. I used to be very poor and drove a 1986 Nissan Sentra with no AC, no radio, no power nuthin. It didn’t even have a day/night thing on the rear-view mirror. It gets hot in Tennessee. It gets really hot when it rains and you have no AC.

  • avatar

    Driving related: ABS

    Safety: Multiple airbags

    Convenience: The fact that my cell logs on to the car’s hands-free without a glitch.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    AS a very heavy user of cruise control (I had to buy/install my own in the xB) I think I would like adaptive cruise control.

  • avatar

    I personally love the DCA (distance control assist) that is on the same car, and the LDP (Lane departure prevention)

    The araound view monitor has been around since the EX came out

  • avatar

    I would have to say cruise control, though it’s not exactly new in it’s non-adaptive form. Haven’t driven a car with adaptive cruise control yet.

    And just in case tomorrows question is not “what is the most infuriating piece of new tech” i would have to say auto-sensing wipers, though not exactly new that either. At least in a new audi when its drizzling, they simply wont wipe. and there’s no normal intermittent switch that i could find while driving. Cursing loudly at the car didn’t fix it.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Steering-coordinated HID headlamps; GM’s magneto-rheological suspension.


  • avatar

    Not exactly new… installed it several years ago… but the Mopar iPod Kit (and iPod) for my Jeep Wrangler. Makes the stock deck control an iPod.

  • avatar

    In other words, nothing that’s come along in the last five years is turning anyones’ crank. Wise group of people. The more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to go wrong!!

  • avatar

    The Smart Key feature is absolutely wonderful. I can’t imagine buying another car without it. I hope all manufacturers offer this option on all cars. Great.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson


  • avatar

    My wife votes for the elecric self starter.

    I vote for moving the bright lights switch to the turn signal stalk. It used to be a metal button on the floor. You’d push it with your foot when you wanted the brights on. The button would rust after a couple years, then you couldn’t get the brights to come on (or go off).

  • avatar

    E85 capable engines… Oh wait July 4th, not April 1st. Happy Independence Day.
    Favorite I’d say is cruise control that works properly. Least favorite: cruise control that works improperly.

  • avatar

    No longer new, but the best improvement in cars has to be fuel injection. Nobody even remembers the horrors of flooding, stinky exhaust, gas smelling interiors, and the short engine life that was caused by gas washed cylinder walls…Modern tech would be adaptive cruise and dual zone climate control. Live with a polar bear wife and this quickly becomes a must have on all household cars.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Here’s a surprising one from someone who has to yet to offer non-surprising feedback…


    I can go on about the well thought features that have already been mentioned (multiple airbags, Honda’s magic seats, adaptive cruise control, advanced trip computers, various satellite related technologies… by the way, my family enjoys all these things with the Fit and S500)

    But steel is where the real paradigm shift has taken place. Most of the steel used in today’s cars wasn’t even available a generation ago, and the quality and structural strength of it is simply incredible.

    Cars drive better, crash better, last longer, and are far more environmentally friendly, because of the steel we use for today’s vehicles.

  • avatar

    Best I have gotten to use is heated seats. In Canada, they were so nice. I often took my wife’s car just so I would have those seats. In Houston, they are nearly as useful since we rarely dress for the cold down here, and if you do, you will roast as soon as you enter a place of business.

    I want to try out one of the new cruise controls with radar, sonar, or whatever that will let you tail the guy in front of you at a comfortable distance. I get sick of ending up in a jam with three other cars trying to sort themselves out on an otherwise empty interstate.

  • avatar

    My favorite: bluetooth on my BMW 5 series. I’ve always hated wearing those nerdy headsets.

  • avatar

    MP3 players. CD MP3 players, or I-Pod input jacks in cars.

  • avatar

    Someone said keyless entry, nice while it works, yes.(though i prefer to twist a key) I deal with car problems for a living, and the more i work the more i start to dislike any electronic stuff that when it goes wrong for no apparent reason, disables the whole car and is impossible to fix on the road. Keyless entry, keycards, even the electronic immobilisers area major PITA when they go wrong, and they do.

    My theory is that car manufacturers put electronic locks in their cars just to save money, and have found clever ways to market it. It must be a lot cheaper to just mold a standard bit of plastic and put a microchip in there and have different codes for each car, compared to making several “proper” locks out of expensive metal and make them different for each car.

    I completely understand why people want these sort of things, and to be honest most of them will never cause problems. But when they do they are… quite frustrating.

  • avatar

    I’mwith Craigles and the other near-technophobes. Give me stickshift vehicle with an AC and an iPod port, and I’m happy to wind up my own windows and do my own driving.

    I drive like an old fart on slippery roads and rarely engage ABS. My Dad taught me to drive as if you had no brakes on slppery surfaces–which was pretty much true of the stuff I learned to drive on with their drum brakes and bias-ply tires.

    The nifty stuff on my Aztek is all nice-to-have, but not need-to-have, something like my pretty-much stripped air-conditioned Ranger, but with better than low/mid 20s mpg, is all I REALLY need.

  • avatar

    Keyless entry and start. AND COOLED SEATS!!

  • avatar

    USB-inputs for stereo. Music from a cheap non-proprietary USB drive. Much cheaper than an iPod and less chance of theft. $15 or so to replace if something did happen to your thumb drive.

    Aux-in 1/8″ input on stereo face. Non-proprietary input from ANY device with a headphone jack.

    Windows up/down with key in door handle (see VW). Great for rolling the windows up at 10PM after leaving it sitting out in the driveway.

    Remote locking & hatchback release.

    Cruise with automatic proximity adjustment. Auto-adjusts the traffic speed in front of you. Haven’t driven one but the idea is a good one.


    VW style auto-wipers. Turns on when it rains but more importantly adjusts to the amount of rain falling.

    2nd choice would be the variable wiper delay they used in the 90s VW products. Adjustable by turning on the wipers, clear the glass. turning them off and then back on when you are ready for them to clear the windshield again. That time off is the delay period. VERY intuitive. Plug-in upgrade that works in even some of the 70s VWs.

    What I like best is that features like this don’t add any real weight to a car. No need for larger engines or mileage penalties. THESE are the kinds of features I’d like to see on more mere mortal vehicles like I drive. Hear that domestics? Not just the $40K halo-cars.

    My last feature that I found I like is GPS. I recently bought a Nokia N810 handheld computer. Runs Linux (YAY!). It has onboard maps and talking directions. NEAT idea. Not as good as a dedicated GPS unit I suppose but I have it with me all the time and there is value in that too. Unfortunately most of my destinations are very well known to me so GPS is not a tool I NEED. Got topo maps too…

    I want heated seats in a future vehicle.

    Don’t need power seats, auto-adjust air conditioning, ABS, airbags, automatic transmissions, automatic headlights, electric parking brakes….

  • avatar

    Stinger missiles under the headlights.

    Seriously, though, heated seats. They’ve saved me from a frozen bum on many a winter morning.

  • avatar

    DVD players in minivans – brilliant. I have to admit to rather liking heated seats as well. The rest I could live without easily.

  • avatar

    Steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. I never thought about them until I got the Mazda3 (where they’re standard). They’re enormously handy, and a lot less distracting than playing with the stereo.

  • avatar

    Best I have gotten to use is heated seats. In Canada, they were so nice. I often took my wife’s car just so I would have those seats.

    Absolutely. They start to heat up much faster than the heater, and really help to take the chill off. I used to use a remote starter and let my car idle to warm up (it gets genuinely cold here in the winter), but since getting a car with heated seats, I find I can get away without it.

    That means I’m saving the environment, right? :-)

  • avatar

    VW style auto-wipers. Turns on when it rains but more importantly adjusts to the amount of rain falling.

    Agreed. It becomes something I don’t have to fiddle with as the quantity of rain varies. I first ran across it on a rental BMW, and it went straight onto the list of features I wanted on my next vehicle (which I now have).

    Don’t need power seats, auto-adjust air conditioning, ABS, airbags, automatic transmissions, automatic headlights, electric parking brakes….

    Actually… auto-adjust air conditioning can be quite useful. It wasn’t a feature I specifically looked for, but now that I have it, I love it. I always found that on long highway trips in sunny weather, I could never get the air conditioning right. With a couple temperature sensors and a light sensor to determine how much sun is hitting the car, it’s now just another thing I don’t have to fiddle with.

    I also like the fact that it’s smart enough not to crank up the fan on a cold winter day until the engine has actually warmed up enough to be producing heat. That’s actually quite convenient.

  • avatar

    VW style auto-wipers. Turns on when it rains but more importantly adjusts to the amount of rain falling.

    Agreed. It becomes something I don’t have to fiddle with as the quantity of rain varies. I first ran across it on a rental BMW, and it went straight onto the list of features I wanted on my next vehicle (which I now have).

    Do they work now then? The 08 Audi A6 i drove had them and they drove me nuts, they refused to wipe when it only drizzled slightly so i had to tap them manually or have them work way too fast. I used a lot more time fiddling with the settings on that damn thing than i do adjusting the six speed intermittent switch in my Focus.

  • avatar

    laser pointer for parking, scales underseat weighing you and displaying it on nav screen,vibro sensing control buttons,dimming side glass, corrossion sensors,interior oxygen/co2 sensor, liquid leakage sensors,password activated ignition, heated armrest, poliurethane foam filled gas tank, voltage activated colour change,charger wire and plug for battery recovery,selectable fuel mixture modes for saving gas,power act.reserve spray for oil outage,brake fade warning.

  • avatar

    If you are married to someone 9 inches shorter than you, memory seats are very nice to have. Many fights are prevented by the mere touch of a button.

  • avatar

    I love technology. I would love both built in Satellite Radio and a built in Navigation system on a hard drive. I really don’t like add ons.

    I also want: back up camera; keyless go; cooled seats; tire pressure monitoring that shows the actual tire pressure at each tire.

    It actually is hard to find a car with all of this.

  • avatar

    My favorites are Sat nav w/ backup camera, dvd playback, and flash drive.
    What I want next is a camera up front as well as rear to take photos or video that can be stored on a flash drive.

    I also want surf and watch DVD’s and HD TV while I am driving.


    I don’t think I am unreasonable. In Japan, they can already watch TV and DVD in their cars. Putting a camera in the front is easy and Nissan already has drives in some of their cars.
    BMW will offer internet access in the new 7 series.

  • avatar

    Stinger missiles under the headlights.….

    Love it!! I thought about integrating two paintball guns into the front of my car. They could be aimed with a laser pointer, or for that really high tech look, integrated into a gps display where you could have a lock control like on a fighter plane. Get the jerk who cut you off in your sights, get tone, and BAM! Instant satisfaction. Gun “a” is just a paintball, but for that really obnoxious ahole, gun “b’ has balls filled with brake fluid…

  • avatar

    GPS, and stability control.

  • avatar

    Scanguage II. Great add on with all sorts of info, and the mileage computer alone makes it practical as it encourages less exuberance. Though the max speed readout sometimes promotes other behavior..

  • avatar

    Dual Zone AC brings a Camp David Accord to the temperature wars. I wish I had power adjusting pedals, being short legged, makes being able to work the clutch in all the way result in the steering wheel a bit too close. I have figured out the radio, but alot of the technology in my car goes unused.

    Oh, I do love the mileage computer. It definitely makes me drive more economically.

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