Latest smart models are unrecognisable compared to 20 years ago

If you are running a ten year old car, you might get a surprise when you climb into the driving seat of something that is more up to date.

And the latest state-of-the-art features and driver aids available will surprise those who cut their driving teeth on models that required the occasional push starts, were temperamental on hills or broke down regularly.

In fact, the latest models have come so far in terms of the advances they have made and the benefits they bring, that they make generational comparisons rather challenging.

Now, modern cars are very smart and take a lot of the effort out of actually driving them.

A vast array of features, like heads-up displays, keyless ignition, satellite navigation and electronic breakdown assistance are all designed to make the life of the driver easier in every possible way.

Many of the latest smart advances have altered the way we drive today, and things that were once an accepted part of everyday motoring life have now disappeared.

At the same time, other things like Ad Blue, diesel particulate filters and automatic service reminders have become a way of life.

Heads-up displays

The latest driver assist systems now include a heads-up display (HUD) on the windscreen in front of you, showing a host of valuable information such as speed, mileage, fuel consumption, turn-by-turn navigation arrows and many more.

Developed from the systems used in jet planes, the latest HUD can give an at-a-glance view of the status of your vehicle. But they may not be for drivers who like an uncluttered look to their windscreens.

Keyless ignition

These days, having a key to open and start the car just seems a bit out of date. Now, a remote keyless system can include a function which unlocks the doors as the driver walks up to their vehicle and a keyless ignition process which allows the driver to start the engine by pushing a button. All they have to do is carry the electronic fob on their person.

Electronic breakdown assistance and recovery

These days if you suffer a breakdown, onboard systems can take care of everything to do with the incident, without the driver actually having to do anything than push a button!

For example, the OnStar system from one of the mainstream manufacturers includes roadside assistance services, stolen vehicle recovery and Wi-Fi connectivity.

If drivers find themselves stranded, a push of the emergency button connects automatically to the breakdown and recovery services provided by the manufacturer and help is quickly on its way.

OnStar can also be a lifesaver in an emergency. If an airbag deploys, an advisor contacts the vehicle to determine whether help is required. If there is no response, emergency responders are immediately sent to the exact location of the vehicle.

Satellite navigation systems

The latest systems offer multiple benefits and have become a standard part of modern driving that was unthinkable 20 years ago.

The current generation sat-nav systems allow drivers to find the shortest distance between two points, thus saving time and fuel costs, help avoid traffic congestion and accidents, and assist drivers to drive more safely, as well as avoiding fixed speed cameras – and even locate the most convenient stop for a drink or a bite to eat!

Many smartphones now offer sat-nav as apps so that you don’t even need to buy the hardware of a bespoke satellite navigation system.

Don’t forget to top up AdBlue

The latest new-generation, low-emission diesel models cut emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) by injecting an additive called AdBlue into the exhaust system, which assists in the breakdown of harmful NOx and turns nitrogen oxide into harmless steam and nitrogen.

AdBlue is consumed in proportion to engine usage, and tank levels need regular monitoring and topping up, like oil or washer fluid. It is estimated that a passenger car will consume approximately 1.5 litres of AdBlue every 620 miles, but this varies from model to model, so always check your manufacturer handbook.

Diesel particulate filers

A diesel particulate filter (DPF)  aims to deliver an 80% reduction in diesel particulate or soot emissions on modern cars,  but the technology is not without problems.

In fact, if you’re buying a new car and plan to use it mainly for town-based, stop/start driving it would be wise to avoid a diesel car fitted with a DPF because of the possible hassle of incomplete ‘DPF regeneration’.

This means the burning off of excess soot at high temperatures, usually reached on long or high speed journeys to prevent the filter from clogging up.

If this doesn’t happen, a DPF warning light will illuminate on the dashboard, and if you keep driving in a relatively slow, stop/start pattern, soot loading will continue to build up and not be burned off. At this point driving at high speed alone will not be enough and you will need to take the car to a dealer for ‘forced’ regeneration.

Vehicle service reminders

If you drive a new vehicle, the old days of putting a small sticker on the inside of your windshield as a reminder of when your vehicle is due for an oil change or its next service are long gone.

Many manufacturers now equip their vehicles with mileage or condition-based reminder systems. An on-board computer keeps track of the miles driven or engine operating conditions since the last maintenance service was performed, and turns on a reminder light when the next maintenance is due.

Car maintenance apps are now readily available on most smart phones and can advise you via regular reminders of oil changes, scheduled services and more, so you’ll always know what you need to safely maintain your vehicle.

The next step – autonomous driving

If the last 10-20 years have seen a surprising number of new developments, the pace of change in the next ten may be more surprising still.

In terms of motoring development, as cars inevitably get smarter and investment increases, the next step will be autonomous driving, where the driver becomes largely redundant and the car actually drives itself.

Already huge sums have been invested in autonomous driving and limited examples, admittedly in enclosed driving environments, are now in existence.

Many of the major manufacturers are developing autonomous drive models, but other technology and engineering specialists, such as Microsoft, Google, Apple, Bosch, Delphi and Uber are also heavily involved, some in partnership with the carmakers.

Such developments suggest that mainstream self-drive vehicles, in relative terms, are just around the corner.

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