10 high tech cars to tear up the tarmac

Mercedes SE350
The Mercedes SE350 alerts you to pedestrians in the road

Car technology is advancing quickly - partly to save the auto industry from imminent collapse, but also because tech innovations can help save lives on the road.

Besides, why not make your morning commute just a notch easier? These ten vehicles offer something new and innovative.

1. BMW 7 Series is camera happy
The most technically advanced vehicle on the road, even compared to the Mercedes E-350, the BMW 7 Series has cameras on the front, side, and rear of the vehicle for a full 360-degree view. The front camera can detect passengers and animals using night-vision, alerting the driver to dangers with a yellow highlight. The same camera, which is mounted near the driver's mirror, can also read road signs and alert the drive about the speed limit. The system even adapts to night-time and driving in the rain by first detecting those variables and reading speed limit signs more accurately.

2. Mercedes E-350 gets your attention
While the Mercedes E-350 cannot read road signs, it is equipped with a similar camera system to the BMW 7 Series in that the car alerts you to pedestrians in the road. Another unusual safety feature: the E-350 can determine if you are driving too long and alert you using an attention assist feature. The car actually uses 70 variables - including how long you have been driving and if you are changing lanes frequently - to determine if the car should get your attention.


View full size version


View full size version

3. Opel (Vauxhall) Insignia reads road signs
Like the BMW 7 Series, the Opel (or Vauxhall) Insignia can read road signs using a camera mounted near the rear-view mirror. For European road signs, the Insignia compares scanned images about 300 meters from the car, at about 30 frame captures per second, against a vast database of legal road signs, then reports this speed to the driver. This helps on long road trips or in conditions where there are too many road signs to track.

Opel insignia

4. Volvo XC60 drives itself around town
The Volvo XC60 is remarkable in that it uses adaptive cruise control - a common driver assistance system that slows the car and speeds up again based on traffic - but at speeds less than ten miles per hour. The City Safety feature uses an infrared camera to detect vehicles. When you're driving, if the car detects another vehicle, it will slow down automatically.

5. Infiniti M lets you feel the breeze
Infiniti invented the lane-keeping system now common on many vehicles that can alert you when you leave your lane. The new Infiniti M actually nudges you back into your lane gently. But that is not the most interesting innovation. A new air control system can detect odors or gases in the car and shut off outside vents automatically and re-circulate interior air. And, you can set the vent system to modulate automatically as well, simulating the natural breezes in a forest.

6. Volkswagen Jetta TDI sips fuel
Most of the technology in the Volkswagen Jetta TDI is under the hood, not inside the passenger compartment. This vehicle uses a unique clean diesel engine for the best fuel economy on the road (about 44 mpg) for a non-hybrid sedan. The engine uses an electronically controlled turbo charger and a fuel injection system that more accurately directs fuel to the engine than other vehicles. The exhaust system is so advanced and precisely controlled it is hard to even see the exhaust in the tailpipe.


7. Acura ZDX has superior sound
Driving doesn't need to be tedious, especially on a long road trip. The Acura ZDX has the most technologically advanced sound system, of any vehicle, with ten speakers and 435 watts of total power. Just as importantly, the surround system is precisely measured - it was designed by Grammy winner Elliot Scheiner - so that you can hear every bass lick and cymbal tick.

Acura zdx

8.Chrysler Grand Caravan with FLO TV
Live television in a vehicle is not new - Sirius Backseat TV has been around for a while. With FLO TV, developed by Qualcomm, the Chrysler Grand Caravan has access to a much wider selection of TV channels, including every major network, sports channels, and Disney movies. The service also uses a multi-cast digital signal for better quality. There's an antenna mounted on the roof at the front and the vehicle has three screens, although the driver TV is only available when parked.

9. Ford Fusion Hybrid makes you green
The Ford Fusion Hybrid uses an innovative heads-up display that shows real-time power consumption. As you drive, small leaves in the dashboard - shown to the right of the picture below - will grow as you learn how to conserve energy by braking less and driving consistent speeds. The HUD has four levels of detail so you can tweak the settings to see just the speed and a few other "green tech" readings, or go full-on environmentalist to see your average miles-per-gallon.

Ford fusion hybrid

10. Toyota Prius has a solar roof
Despite their woes with the sticking accelerator, Toyota is still a powerhouse of technological advances. On the Prius, a solar roof can power the interior air vents and keep your car cool for you when parked in the hot sun. The only downside: the car makes a strange whirring sound while venting itself.


John Brandon

John Brandon has covered gadgets and cars for the past 12 years having published over 12,000 articles and tested nearly 8,000 products. He's nothing if not prolific. Before starting his writing career, he led an Information Design practice at a large consumer electronics retailer in the US. His hobbies include deep sea exploration, complaining about the weather, and engineering a vast multiverse conspiracy.