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Know Your Car: Top Facts about New Car Technologies

Our cars are becoming more advanced every day. Companies like Google and Audi are even building vehicles that can navigate the chaos of the road completely without any human assistance. With social media connectivity, multiple cameras, and complex electronic systems, it’s no wonder that the sheer complexity of new car technology can be a bit overwhelming at times.

The Harris Poll reports that three in four car owners fear that car technology has become distracting and dangerous. Concerns about violation of privacy due to data shared with automotive computer systems are also on the rise. These concerns are, however, misplaced. New car technology can actually reduce road distraction, increase safety, and keep drivers connected to the world around them. As far as your privacy is concerned, your car’s data systems are actually one of the safest methods of accessing and storing your personal information.

Is Technology in Your Car Driving You to Distraction?

With the advent of smartphones, GPS, Satellite radio, and other digital entertainment systems, we live in an increasingly tech-saturated world. However, digital driving distractions are nothing new. People have been making calls and sending texts via cellphone since they became widely available. Going farther back, drivers have been fiddling with their radio knobs ever since the technology was introduced into the motor vehicle.

In the modern world, information is fed to us in bite-sized chunks via our phones, music players, tablets, and other devices. It is a common sight to see drivers looking at and using these devices, often illegally, rather than devoting their attention to driving.

Which sounds safer: a driver looking down into their iPhone’s screen to use an app or check a text, or that same driver accessing their apps via voice commands and steering-wheel mounted controls that are designed with driving in mind? Bluetooth connections and infotainment systems create an environment in which the driver can keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel, without having to give up the technological connectivity to which they are accustomed.

Afraid Your Car Might Be Spying on You?

With the systems being installed in cars these days, it is often possible to access your personal contacts, addresses, and even locations you have previously visited using your vehicle’s navigation systems. Some people worry that this information is available for anyone to access. This is false. There are a number of precautions you can take and pre-existing protections in your vehicle to prevent any of this information from being accessed by anyone else.

Concerned that your navigation system is storing your home address? You can choose not to store it in the system, select a public place or intersection near your home as your home address, or set up a Valet mode that uses a PIN code to secure sensitive addresses. You can also delete recently navigated addresses from your system’s history.

Many cars now have the ability to link up to your phone through Bluetooth, giving you voice activated access to most of its functions, including your address book. These contacts can also be protected by activating valet mode, or simply by turning off your Bluetooth connection when not driving your car. The phonebook will not display unless your phone is paired to the vehicle.

In newer vehicles from BMW, Ford, and Honda, drivers can receive emails and texts on their central screen, and even have the car read them aloud. However, these messages are not stored in the vehicle, and only are accessible when your phone is paired via Bluetooth. Simply turn off the Bluetooth connection when handing your vehicle over to a valet or mechanic, and your messages will not be available.

Finally, there’s one other element most might overlook. 96% of vehicles are equipped with an Event Data Recorder, or “black box.” This computing unit records speed, braking, and seatbelt use data while driving. The black box must be hooked up to a computer with the proper software installed for this information to be accessible, most often used by insurance agencies and law enforcement.

Use the Technology to Your Advantage

It’s nearly impossible to purchase a car without intricate technology pre-installed these days. However, with the right precautions, you can familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s technological features and improve your driving experience.

It’s important to get to know your car and the functionality of its various features before you drive it. Give the manual a read; there should be guides for all of the technological features on offer. You might even consider looking up tutorials online if your manual doesn’t answer all your questions.

Try experimenting with the physical and voice controls for your vehicles infotainment and other electronic systems while you are parked. This will give you a chance to familiarize yourself with the layout, making the use of these systems second nature when you’re on the road. Knowing your way around the control interfaces for your various in-car technologies means not having to take your eyes off the road or hands off the wheel. The whole point of in car technology is to make you safer and less distracted while driving, and a solid handle on how these systems work will greatly boost their effectiveness.

Stay Connected but Don’t Forget to Stay Focused

By learning how to protect your private information, maximizing your familiarity with your car’s technology, and educating yourself about its various functions, you can safely use modern conveniences like apps and navigation without worrying about distracted driving. It is still your responsibility to find the right balance between focusing on the road and staying connected or finding your favorite music to listen to. Modern automotive technology, with voice controls and other systems designed with driving in mind, just makes that balance much easier to maintain.

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