Fantastic New Tech for Our Cars: Do We Actually Want It?

There’s no doubt that there are some amazing new technologies in the pipeline for our cars. In this two-part post, we’ll be looking at a few examples and asking: do we actually want them?

OK, we can hear you:

Whaddya mean, do we want them? They’re new technologies, dude. Of course we want them!

Calm down. The fact is (Shhh! Just between us) not every high tech innovation is automatically fantastic. Especially when it comes to cars.

The way we see it, the car has always represented personal freedom, an escape from the pressures of life. For some drivers today, that means having a break from a relentlessly digital, interconnected world.

On the other hand, we don’t want to turn into our grandparents, grumbling about things not having proper dials.

Surely there’s a happy middle ground between:

(a) joining an Amish community and

(b) gulping down every new tech thrown our way.

Let’s see if we can find it.

1. The digital sun visor

The concept:

Bosch has developed a digital sun visor which prevents glare by darkening select areas of an LCD screen. The rest of the screen stays transparent. The visor uses a camera to track the driver’s eyes and sun’s position, ensuring that they are kept shielded from glare even as the car (or driver) move. Bosch’s design won an award at the Consumer Electronics Show in January this year.

Do we want it?

Absolutely! Let’s say you’re driving home on a Winter’s afternoon and the roads are wet from a sudden downpour. As you’re driving up a hill, the sun breaks through. You’re blinded by sun directly in your face, dazzled by reflection off wet roads. It’s too direct for the sun visor and you have to scrabble for your sunglasses. Meanwhile cyclists and even other vehicles just disappear.

In changeable Blighty, this dangerous scenario isn’t uncommon. In 2018, dazzling sun caused 2,643 UK accidents, which included 551 serious collisions and 27 fatalities.

We can’t see a single disadvantage to a digital sun visor and we want one. Now.

2. Buttonless dashboards

The concept:

OK, so Tesla has largely done away with buttons already, replacing them with a giant iPad glued to the dashboard… or is that being harsh? However, tech innovators Cerence are taking things a stage further. According to Auto Express:

It demonstrated a system at CES that mixed speech commands, gesture control and eye tracking to leave no need for physical switches at all. It’s still two years off production – but it’s coming.

Cerence provides the software behind the ‘Hey Mercedes’ system, seen in action below.

Do we want it?

Meh, maybe. On the plus side, it would mean less fiddling with buttons, which undoubtedly has some safety advantages. It would also remove all the interior clutter in one fell swoop.

However, we’ve got two objections. Firstly, not everyone wants a car interior as minimalist as a Danish architect’s house. Personally, we like having more switches and buttons than a fighter cockpit. It’s cool. Also, is flicking a switch really that difficult? Sometimes it feels like in the name of convenience, tech is turning us into helpless, oversized babies.

It’s probably one of those things that once you try, you instantly forget how you managed without it. But for the moment, we’re luke-warm.

3. Augmented reality displays

The concept:

Augemented reality (AR) displays overlay computer-generated graphics and other information onto the driver’s view of the real world. The technology is already widely in use for parking assistance, but next generation AR promises to take things several stages further.

For example, BMW is currently developing an AR display that shows the distance to an object (e.g. another car). The AR system will warn the driver if they are approaching too fast. Other applications might include showing how the driver can manoeuvre safely into gaps on a motorway, or overlaying directions to your destination. Other manufacturers have looked into AR displays for passengers which would allow them to display useful information about their surroundings.

Do we want it?

We’re conflicted on this one too. There’s no denying that this could be genuinely useful for direction-finding and driving on busy roads. For a nervous driver on a busy motorway, AR could be a godsend.

So why any hesitation at all? Well, here’s a radical idea: we might want to look through a car windscreen or window without tech getting in on the act. We already spend a scary amount of time gazing into our phone screens instead of looking at the real world. Does that make us sound ancient? Good!

We will be back soon with more thoughts on car technology. Stay tuned!

The Welsh VW Specialist blog covers a wide range of automotive topics, from the contentious to the light-hearted. We are an independent garage specialising (as the name suggests!) in all the VW group marques, including Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT. Welsh VW Specialists provide services, repairs and MOTs, delivering a main dealer level of care at affordable prices. To book your vehicle in, or for any enquiries, get in touch.