Imagine you’re driving down a lonely country road at night when buzzing by comes a low-flying UFO. Naturally, you stop the car as the craft hovers over the road and appears to scan your vehicle with a broad beam of greenish light. Then just as unexpectedly as it appeared, the spacecraft shoots off at an oblique angle at a high rate of speed.
Quick, what’s your first thought? It’s probably something like: “Whoa! Man, nobody’s gonna believe this!” And you know, you’d probably be right.
Enter dash cams, small video cameras that record the action ahead of (and sometimes behind) your vehicle in a continuous loop. You can save these recordings to prove that, no, you are not crazy—and for a variety of more common situations such as recording vehicle accidents and spontaneous dance numbers breaking out during gridlock.
BUYERS SAY, “SAFETY FIRST”
“The potential for close encounters aside, it turns out that dash cameras are just one of the many high-tech gizmos today’s car buyers say they covet as a standard feature or option in their next car,” says George Peterson, president of automotive forecasting company AutoPacific. The consulting firm asked more than 1,100 respondents to its recent Future Attributes Demand Study (FADS) to choose which features they’d like to see show up on their next new car—dash cameras topped that list.
Other features that were popular with respondents to the most recent survey include a fighter pilot-style head-up display that projects information such as vehicle speed and navigation directions directly in the driver’s line of sight to allow them to keep their eyes on the road. Also making the list are systems that use stitched-together images from four cameras to produce a 360-degree view of the car’s immediate surroundings.
While originally envisioned as safety features, both of these items can also be major conveniences.
HOW CONVENIENT IS THAT?
“Once basic safety needs are met by items such as antilock brakes and rearview cameras, car buyers increasingly are turning their attention to features that add comfort and convenience” says Peterson.
Heated seats, push-button ignitions, and front and rear parking sensors—all mentioned in previous survey lists of wished-for features—are now starting to become more widespread. Built-in USB charging ports and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, which allow you to control many of your phone’s apps from the dash-mounted infotainment screen, are considered to be must-haves by more drivers too.
GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT
Perusing the results for the previous 25 years of AutoPacific’s FADS research, you can’t help but come away with two lasting impressions. The first is how many of the previously studied features have now become standard in new cars. The second is how many bells and whistles once found only on luxury nameplates have now trickled down to mass-market models.
Come to think of it, all these new vehicle features might be what those space aliens were really here to probe after all.