New car technology targets convenience, safety

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- The latest technological advances in new vehicles seem to target two different areas -- making life more convenient and keeping drivers and their passengers safe while out on the road.

Car expert Jim Prueter of AAA Arizona says you can see the advances in every type of vehicle from the sports car to the larger sport utility vehicles.

According to Prueter, the automatic liftgate opener is a popular feature with consumers.

“Maybe you have a baby in your arms or you have packages or groceries or you're struggling with the dog. Instead of setting things on the ground, there is a Wii-like sensor," Prueter explained." You just take your foot under the back bumper, kick and the liftgate goes up."

For those not handy with a tire gauge, Nissan has a feature where the car horn beeps once you have filled your tires with enough air.

Saving money was one of the motivations behind the car with the stop/start technology. When the vehicle comes to a complete stop, the engine shuts off. When the driver lets off the brake, the engine re-fires. This helps to improve gas mileage.

These days many vehicles allow you to connect your car with your cell, giving you direct access to apps, like navigation systems or music apps like Pandora. As convenient as this might be, some safety experts say it can be dangerous, as well.

"It is the cognitive distraction, the fact that you are focused on sending that text, making that phone call, looking for the stop on your freeway, " AAA Arizona's Linda Gorman said. "Those types of things reduce your attention and can increase your likelihood that you get in a crash."

Safety is also a key area when it comes to developing new technology.

According to Prueter, inflatable backseat seat belts cover five times more space across your chest. Curve control will slow your car down when it senses you may not be able to negotiate a turn.

Blind-spot detectors set off flashing lights in the mirror to warn the driver when another vehicle is there.

The lane departure system will make sure motorists don't drift.

"You'll get an audible sound, and it'll feel like you hit a rumble strip in your steering wheel," Prueter said. "On some models it will actually turn the steering wheel to bring you back into the lane."

Sensors detect the lane makers. That is how they help keep the car in line.