Computers on wheels

Technology important to car buyers

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Paul Mellum, Ryan Honda of Minot, explains some of the new technology available in today’s vehicles that provide for both safety and convenience.

For decades automobile buyers have focused on reliability ratings, adequate horsepower, interior comforts and color options. Those things are still important factors to consider for when car shopping today, but today’s car buyers want the latest in technology too. In fact, dashboard technology packages are rapidly becoming a number one consideration for car buyers.

“Today’s cars are a computer on wheels,” said Paul Mellum, Ryan Honda of Minot. “You still have an engine and a transmission, but you have way more electronics than we’ve every had in the past.”

Some features, such as back-up cameras, blind spot indicators, heated seats and steering wheels, and navigational displays have become almost commonplace on today’s vehicles. There’s much more too, including an ample use of sensitive cameras and even radar.

“The cameras are as good as the human eye,” said Mellum.

Cameras that see painted lines, such as solid and dotted lines on roadways, can actually guide a car and let the driver know when he or she might be a little too much to one side of a lane or another.

“The car basically will keep you between the lines. If you start drifting over towards a line the car physically steers you back into your lane and keeps you going down the road,” said Mellum.

Hondas can also come equipped with Road Departure Mitigation, a remarkable safety feature that offers additional assistance to drivers. Drivers who cross the solid line on a highway too often will find their vehicle helping out by steering away from the line while starting to apply the brake as needed.

“The car will help keep you out of the ditch,” said Mellum.

Weary drivers, those fighting to stay awake at wheel, will find that in-car technology can help them avert dangerous situations.

“It’s called our Driver Attention Monitor,” said Mellum. “The car is going to let you know when you’ve been tapping too many lines and it has had to steer you back and forth between lanes. Eventually the car will realize you are not doing a very good job of driving anymore. It’ll let you know that it is maybe time to take a break.”

One of the ways Driver Attention Monitor responds is with a very bright and large cup of coffee illuminated on a dashboard screen, a friendly reminder important for the safety of the driver and others on the roadway.

Then there’s Forward Collision Mitigation, a system that helps prevent accidents. If a vehicle in front of a vehicle equipped with Forward Collision Mitigation suddenly hits the brakes it will trigger the Forward Collision Mitigation.

“The car is basically going to stop itself to try and avoid hitting something,” explained Mellum.

Radar is used on today’s vehicles to assist with cruise control. It reads the distance to other vehicles so that a proper gap will be maintained. It is a safety measure that can prevent accidents.

“It’s called Adaptive Cruise Control,” said Mellum. “It’ll pick up that car through a radar unit that’s imbedded in the front of the car sending radar waves back and forth. If that car is going 62 and your cruise is set at 69, it is going to slow down. As soon as you go into the passing lane the car is going back up to 69 because there’s nobody in front of you anymore.”

Sometimes inclement weather, such as encountering ice or snow, can interfere with the operation of one or more of the on-board safety systems. No problem. That message will be conveyed on a dashboard screen to make the driver well aware of the situation.

A good amount of electronic displays in vehicles today can be accessed through smart phones as well. It is, says Mellum, a glance at the future of automobiles.

“The cars today have got all kinds of electronics but we’re going to start using our phones more to translate some stuff,” said Mellum. “What are we getting towards? We are getting towards the self-driving car, aren’t we? The cars we have today have already laid the groundwork for all this technology that’s going to be here sooner than people think.”

Toss in keyless entry, push button starting, voice activated text messaging, back seat cameras to keep an eye on children, enhanced trip computers, excellent music systems and you have an idea what is trending in today’s increasingly techy vehicles. Some of the advances are happening so rapidly that it becomes difficult for some car buyers to stay abreast of the improvements.

“That’s the thing about cars these days,” said Mellum. “We have to educate buyers on all this stuff.”

As advancements in technology remain in demand it appears there’s no turning back and virtually no limit to what new developments might be included in your next new vehicle purchase.