Gone are the days when air conditioning and CD players were exciting innovations that brought luxury to a car. Today's auto gadgets allow drivers to see like Batman at night, stay awake on the road and add stars to their ceilings. You don't even have to parallel park anymore. Check out these five unique car gadgets.
The car parks itself:
By the time you've reached your destination, parallel parking may seem like unnecessary stress. The "
Advanced Parking Guidance System
" in Lexus's LS sedan model uses a back-up camera and parking sensors to direct the vehicle into place, whether the move is lateral or backward. The driver merely controls the car's speed with the brake pedal.
" on its Lincoln MKS and MKT models, which uses an ultrasonic steering system to park with precision. The driver's only job is to press the gas and brake pedals as the car maneuvers, hands-free.
Many high-end vehicles now come with infrared cameras to help you see better at night, even without looking through the windshield. The "
" feature in
5 Series sedans locates objects in front of the car that are up to 300 meters away and displays black-and-white images of them on a high-definition screen next to the steering wheel.
offers its own version, called "
," in its S-class cars.
The threat of falling asleep after a long day at work or on the road is as hazardous, and potentially fatal, as impaired vision.
has developed "
," a system that helps keep sleepy drivers alert and focused on the road. The system monitors the driver's steering, which Mercedes considers the "most important indicator" of fatigue, along with the car's speed. When drivers stray from their normal patterns, a voice shouts "Attention Assist! Break!" It's expected to launch this spring.
Ride top down, even if it's chilly:
If you like to roll sans roof year-round, check out the Mercedes Air Scarf, available in the 2009 SL Class, which blows warm air through vents in the seats' headrests. The chemical barium titanate heats the air within seconds and drivers can adjust its intensity.
The monotony of your surroundings can make for a dull drive. Wouldn't it be nice to change the car's interior? If you have cash to spare, you could buy a
Phantom for its
feature. Inside the car's rear compartment, 800 lights illuminate the ceiling, which comes in black or tan leather. The driver can adjust the brightness, depending on his or her mood or companion, and enjoy the beauty of a starlit sky from the rear seat of a Rolls Royce.
Nate Herpich is a freelance writer and editor living in Brooklyn, N.Y. He has also written for the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor and Sports Illustrated.com.