In Style + Design

The Coolest Car Tech Innovations Of 2019

In the future, driving a car will be as hilariously retro as renting a DVD, or riding a horse, but even before we get to that fully autonomous world, our vehicles will be rolling out incredible new technology.

You’ve probably noticed that the chore of driving yourself places is becoming more a matter of choice than necessity. Uber is only the start. Thanks to new car technology, you’ll be able to hop in a car that drives you places without you having to lift a finger. (Ubers, too, will soon drive themselves; indeed the company has predicted that it will only start to make real money once it nixes human drivers.)

Car companies are already rolling out membership programs in which you can share a fleet of its cars rather than own them. They’re also talking about the interior of your newly autonomous car as a ‘third place’, besides home and work, where you can ‘access content’ and thus be sold ads.

new car technology

Car companies are talking the interior of your car as a ‘third place’, where you can ‘access content’ and thus be sold ads. Image: supplied

While Tesla is already offering Autopilot technology and some cars can now effectively drive themselves – at least in traffic jams – there are a few steps along the way to full ‘eyes-off, hands-off’ self-driving cars.

Some of the new car technology that will make that future possible is, however, being rolled out:

Seats that can measure your stress levels

new car technology

Manufacturing giant Lear is working on car seats that will be able to measure your heart rate and stress levels. Image: supplied

Yes, your car already listens to you – thanks to voice-recognition software – but the plan is for it to really hear you, and feel you, as well.

Manufacturing giant Lear is working on car seats that will be able to measure your heart rate and stress levels, and be able to sense when you are getting drowsy.

Lear is developing ‘smart seats’, which are embedded with sensors and computer chips to constantly monitor both drivers and passengers.

One other clever touch the seats will have, which should come in handy when cars become more like living rooms on wheels, are ‘sound zones’, which feature individual, Bluetooth-connected speakers in each headrest, so occupants can make phone calls or listen to music separately, without annoying each other.

In-car features that will keep you fit and healthy

new car technology

Mercedes-Benz ‘Fit & Healthy’ concept is designed to “enhance the fitness and well-being” of occupants. Image: supplied

Luxury brand Mercedes-Benz has already launched what it calls its Fit & Healthy concept for its high-end vehicles, which is designed to “enhance the fitness and well-being” of occupants while “offering worlds of experience for all the senses”.

By connecting to your no-doubt Benz-branded wearable device, your Mercedes will collect data on your activity levels and provide personalised recommendations for greater wellbeing and fitness. Presumably it won’t suggest that you get out and walk home, however.

The goal is to monitor “the driver’s vital parameters as well as data on the immediate and wider area around the vehicle. This information is merged and, by means of appropriate algorithms, the driver is presented with a tailor-made offer for enhancing their well-being.”

new car technology

The Mercedes will collect data on your activity levels and provide personalised recommendations for greater wellbeing and fitness. Image: supplied

This could be as simple as being offered a stress-free route to your next destination, or playing relaxing music to calm your mood, pumping chill-out fragrances into the car or even giving you a hot-stone massage through the seat.

Benz cars can already monitor how tired you are by the way you are driving, and the system will soon be able to recommend that you take a power nap should it sense that you’re tired, and will even find a suitable rest area to do so.

Sensory technology that can monitor your emotions

BMW is set to launch special in-car cameras that can read your emotions, sensing whether you’re sad or angry, for example, within the next two years.

The company recently launched its Alexa-like personal assistant, which you can activate by saying “Hey BMW”, but it is just the beginning of an amazing tech rollout.

The next stage will feature cameras in the roof-lining that can read both facial expressions and body language. If you are sad, your BMW will attempt to cheer you up (how it will do this is not clear, but hopefully not via German humour) or to calm your nerves if you are stressed.

New BMWs will be able to monitor the driver and their passengers separately and can even manage different emotional zones if, for example, you have moody teens in the back, but you feel fine about it.

Drive modes that will help you drive slippery streets

new car technology

Porsche’s new Wet Mode adjusts the car’s power delivery and sensitivity of the throttle to make it difficult to slide off a wet road. Image: supplied

How many times have you been slowed down, or personally stricken by, an accident in which someone slides off a slippery road on a rainy day?

Modern safety technology could soon put an end to the problem, and without even taking the role of driving away from you completely.

Porsche has just launched, on its 911 sports car, a program called Wet Mode. Using audio sensors inside the wheel arches, which can tell the difference between water and sand being flicked up off the road, the car can warn you when the surface is getting slippery.

If you take its advice and select Wet Mode, the Porsche adjusts its power delivery, the sensitivity of the throttle and its various stability systems in such a way that it becomes extremely difficult to slide off a wet road, even if you try.

Journalists were encouraged to do so on a specially watered-down go-kart track at the car’s launch recently, and were stunned to find that even their most ham-fisted attempts wouldn’t send them spearing off the road.

(Lead image: Mercedes-Benz / supplied)

Published 08 February, 2019