Admit it -- you love hearing about all the new gadgets that car makers are stuffing into their latest models. Well, we've got six of the coolest right here.
Just a few years ago, high-tech gadgetry and top-of-the-line audio and video systems were relegated to the home or office. Now, some of the most popular electronics brands are taking their ideas mobile, and in doing so have turned driving from a chore to a joy.
If you have the technical savvy, and sometimes deep pockets, to install and use the following great auto gadgetry, you might soon find yourself spending more time in the car, and less time at your destination.
There are literally too many aftermarket head units out there to count, but few do quite so much so well as Pioneer's flagship in-dash system. The Z3 is a technical wonder, with more wiring behind it than a full-size computer, and for that matter it can do things that no computer can.
A touch-screen display, 30 GB hard drive, built-in navigation, DVD playback and voice activation are just some of the features that sets this model apart from competitors. Add a hookup accessory, and your iPod can be played and controlled from right on the screen. An optional Bluetooth feature lets your phone pair up with the head unit so that calls come through the car speakers and even dialing can be done by voice command.
For that final bit of excess to impress your friends, the Z3 has a built-in gyroscope that will give real-time stats on everything from speed to G-forces while driving.
Perhaps the only all-in-one car system that can compete with Pioneer is currently exclusive to Ford (F) vehicles, but that doesn't make it any less amazing.
Created in a partnership between the auto maker and technology giant Microsoft (MSFT), the Sync system is a do-everything electronic brain for your car, seamlessly bonding the tech-head driver to his vehicle. BlackBerry-toting businesspeople as well as text-happy teens will love that Sync can read out text messages and email aloud, and you can even send responses verbally.
Navigation, satellite radio and various other bells and whistles are also available, and the total package is only a $400 option on select Ford vehicles. At that price, it's no wonder the auto company expects to have them available in 85% of their cars by next year.
For those times when you absolutely must be online, Autonet comes to the rescue with its mobile wireless router.
Currently available only through Avis (CAR) car rental service, the mobile Internet device is soon to be available to consumers nationwide and will no doubt revolutionize how you pass the time on long commutes, whether it's giving the kids something to do during road trips or just letting you check email while stuck in rush hour.
Autonet works as a standalone Internet service provider, in the same way that your Internet company at home does. For a monthly subscription you get access to its network, which you then connect to through the wireless router that plugs into your car's AC power adapter.
The network runs on the same high-speed data system used by cell phones, which now has about 95% nationwide coverage.
Even better, Autonet has partnered with both SprintS and VerizonVZ, so it will connect to whichever tower has the strongest signal, regardless of carrier. That's something today's cell phones can't do -- and while the speed isn't as fast as DSL or cable would be at home, it's still light-years ahead of modern cell phone Internet surfing.
Escort Passport 9500i
Let's get one thing out of the way here: Under no circumstances is it advisable to speed or drive reckless in any way. Secondly, not all states allow radar detectors, and you should check your local laws before deciding to purchase one.
That said, no one likes to see those blue lights in the rearview mirror, and Escort's latest in its heralded line of radar detectors aims to eliminate that sight altogether. The Passport 9500i is unique because it is the only detector to feature GPS technology to help keep you away from tickets. The Passport uses this technology to mark points where false alarms are known to regularly occur, eventually learning not to go off unnecessarily at that point.
Also, the driver can hit a button to mark a location where they see a speed trap. From then on, whenever the motorist is approaching that area the Passport will alert them and begin a countdown of distance until the speed trap is fading in the distance.
These industry firsts, combined with Escort's history of top-notch detector performance, make this model the best bet for the driver that sometimes lets his eyes wander away from the speedometer.
Automatic Parallel Parking
This revolutionary feature has been around for a year or two now, but with its increasing inclusion on more and more car models it's worthy of a mention.
The system that was first introduced by LexusTM has become the perfect companion for anyone who breaks into a sweat at the sight of those curbside spaces sandwiched dangerously tight in between parked cars.
Sensors on the car combine with the navigation screen and a backup camera to allow to driver to hit a button, keep his feet on the brake and relax. The car will do all the steering, telling the driver when to brake more or less and nothing else. It's perfect for eliminating the embarrassment of parking halfway up on the curb in front of crowds of sidewalk café patrons.
Viper 5701 Security System
Let's face it, a car full of the newest gizmos and gadgets is just asking to get stolen. There's nothing worse than walking outside one day to find your windows smashed and your newest navigation system ripped from the dashboard, so Directed Electronics (DEIX) has a brand new aftermarket security system that covers all the bases.
The 5701 is operated completely from the ultra-thin remote on your keychain, allowing you to monitor the system from up to half a mile away. Sensors can be placed on every point of entry from the windows to doors to the trunk, and each gives instant feedback to the key fob.
Additionally, a shock sensor alerts to any bumps with varying alarm levels depending on the severity. The starter kill can be used remotely to disable the ability to turn the car on, so even if a thief manages to get in he won't be going anywhere. You, on the other hand, can remotely start the car as easily as you can kill it -- perfect for cold days when you want the heat cranking before you leave the house.