In-car technology has become enormously more affordable in recent years, with many devices going from expensive optional upgrades to standard selections. Because of this, even those not generally interested in keeping up with the tech curve might be tempted to see how their driving experiences can be enhanced.
But if you’re looking to get a taste of the future without spending a lot of money, what should you be considering? In this piece, we’ll run through some areas of car technology that have now become cheap enough to be viable for the average driver, seeing what they have to offer to someone aspiring to take their motoring to the next level in 2019:
More and more of our lives are being governed by our smartphones — we use them to navigate, search, play music, and even shop online — and it’s accordingly important that the other systems we use find ways to integrate with smartphone ecosystems. This is why car manufacturers are moving to new connectivity standards: Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Most new cars now come with built-in systems that use these standards, but you can also buy aftermarket solutions — various options are available for under $300, allowing you to connect your phone via Bluetooth to play media and control map navigation. Given the amount you’re likely to use such a system (particularly if you own the car for a long time), that’s affordable.
Wireless Phone Charging
Within the next couple of years, wireless charging will become an option for even low-end smartphones. If you already have a phone that supports it, you can achieve a much more convenient hands-free experience by using in-car wireless phone charging.
Doing this is as simple as finding a car smartphone-holder that will fit your phone and has a wireless charging panel built into it. There’s a wide range of them between $20 and $50, so you don’t need to pay much to do away with your charging cable.
Having a camera on a car used to be extremely unusual outside of specific professions that require close monitoring, but falling costs have made camera systems suitable for budget-friendly buying. You can get anything from a high-quality backup camera system to a comprehensive multi camera installation.
What’s the purpose of these systems? Well, not only will having cameras installed help you avoid collisions (particularly in larger vehicles), but it will also provide you with excellent legal backup should there be an incident while you’re recording. Dash cams have become popular for this specific reason.
High-end surround-view camera installations can approach $1000, but you can get a reasonable backup camera system for as little as $80 or so, and you should consider the long-term value of having much better visibility. Given how cheaply you can acquire a camera system, and how useful it’s likely to be, I’d say it’s absolutely worth trying.
Smart Control Apps
Smartphone connectivity for media and navigation is extremely useful, but smartphones can do more for drivers: indeed, a smartphone can add a lot to a driving experience, both through playing a role in the security system and enabling improvements to logistics. This is all possible through using smart control apps.
A smart car-control app is a mobile app that allows the user to control various aspects of their car. Consider locking, for instance. Do you ever struggle to remember where you left your keys? Or worry that your key will suddenly break off in the lock, leaving you unable to access your vehicle until you get qualified assistance? With the right security app, you can lock and unlock your car through your phone, or even toggle the alarm. No more wondering if you remembered to lock your car, or forgetting where you parked it (all thanks to GPS functionality).
What’s more, there are apps capable of enhancing logistics — typically for industrial haulage vehicles that need to proceed with optimal economy. The downside of these apps? At the moment, they’re only realistically viable when offered directly by car manufacturers. Smart safety is already mainstream for some niches, but, somewhat unfortunately, not yet this one. There are some aftermarket solutions around (such as Car Chabi or BluKooki), but they’re not common to the Western world yet. This is an option that’ll need some time.
All of these car technologies are certainly affordable, but the lack of availability and compatibility hurts smart control apps somewhat. The first three options, though — getting your smartphone connected, installing wireless charging, and setting up camera feeds — are all viable, and you could achieve all three for well under $1000.