New tech to woo the buyers

It used to be that garages boasted when the cars on their used car lot had a heated rear window (HRW) or power assisted steering (PAS). But, now that almost every car has these, and much more, as standard the race is on to find technology to tease potential buyers.

Cars to come my way recently have been bristling with what the manufacturers believe is today’s ‘must-have’ tech. A spate of recent road test cars have arrived, from different manufacturers, with a remarkable consensus of what they think we want.

On the safety front, blind-spot detection systems are all the rage. These display a warning light when a car is lurking on your left, or right, rear flanks. On each car it worked well, although it is prone to detecting lurking hedges and fences.

Usually packaged with the blind spot detection system is lane-keeping assistance. Citroen, who were one of the pioneers, alerted you by vibrating the seat cushion on the offending side, if you wandered over a white line. Now it is more common to give a warning.

While I can think of a good view lane-waverers that I would like to receive an even more strident warning, I’ve never felt these systems particularly useful.

Road sign recognition

Ford Focus showing road sign recognition display and lane-keeping assist

Several recent test cars have come with road sign reading systems. These flag up road signs on the dashboard. Usually it is the current speed limit.

However, experience has shown that these systems need to be used with the same degree of common sense as is needed with sat-nav systems.

On my route there is one road that has a 15 mph speed limit. The sign recognition systems variously flagged this up as 10 mph, but also 70 mph and – on one occasion – 80 mph.

Two recent Fords have come with a headlight assist system. This switches between main beam and dip automatically.

Obviously the system has to be more sensitive to red light so that it dips when following a car. It takes some time to have the confidence to leave the dipping function to the car, but it actually is very effective.

Occasionally it dips for red road reflectors, or house lights, but its reliability is remarkable. The system does seem to err on the side of caution however, taking time to decide it is safe for main beam and dipping lights on bends. You do still have the normal switch to override the settings.

I have only once before driven a car with automatic headlight dipping. That was the BMW M6 and it only dipped the lights for you. You always had to select main beam.

It helps out in these moments when you need three hands. You know the situation. On a corner you are suddenly faced by an approaching car when one hand is on the steering and the other is changing gear. That’s when headlight assistance comes into its own.
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