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Year in Review: Greatest Car Innovations of 2016

By Cheeni (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

The automotive world is constantly evolving, and new, exciting changes crop up year after year. A desire for improved performance and inter-connectivity, as well as increasing environmental concerns, fuel today’s forward-thinking technology.

The year 2016 saw many changes in our personal vehicles, from increased fuel efficiency to state-of-the-art safety measures. Here’s a run-down of some of 2016’s most impressive car innovations.

The McLaren 570S: A Drivable Supercar

If you dreamed of driving a racecar as a child but instead ended up working a 9-to-5, you can resurrect your dream in the driver’s seat of the McLaren 570S. A rear-wheel drive, street legal vehicle that would look at home on any motor speedway, the 570S boasts a sleek interior with pockets on its dihedral doors and an advanced IRIS infotainment set-up.

Source: Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0 / GNU FDL 1.2
Source: Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0 / GNU FDL 1.2

The McLaren 570S’s powerful engine roars rather than purrs, putting out 562 horsepower. Topping out at an impressive 204 mph, the 570S goes from 0 – 60 in about 3 seconds. With a starting price tag of $184,900, the McLaren 570S isn’t cheap, but it’s a small price to pay to experience exuberant speed and luxury performance every time you get behind the wheel. A smooth, airy suspension system, pinpoint steering and crisp power delivery round out the McLaren’s superb features.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV: No More Range Scare

Saving energy is a big-ticket issue, and in the automotive industry, electric cars are at the forefront of the green car movement. With a top speed of 96 mph, user-friendly infotainment system and roomy interior, the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV is a fierce contender among modern electric cars.

Photo by William Oliver on Flickr / CC BY 2.0.
Photo by William Oliver on Flickr / CC BY 2.0.

What elevates the Bolt EV to the very top spot, however, is its unprecedented range. Depending on the conditions, speed and terrain, the Bolt’s range can exceed 238 miles before a battery charge is needed. This is more than enough to forget about the range anxiety that was linked to electric cars not so long ago. The 2017 Bolt EV is equipped with a 200 horsepower electric motor, a 288-cell, energy-dense lithium-ion battery and a modern cabin, with a 10.2-inch touchscreen interface and available 4G LTE Wi-Fi.

At a starting cost of $37,495 for the LT trim, eco-savvy drivers will find that the Bolt EV is affordable and outpaces the competition.

4Moms Self-installing Car Seat: Keeping Kids Safe and Comfortable

When you’re on the road with children in tow, their safety is paramount. Unbeknownst to many parents, however, installing child safety seats correctly can be a difficult endeavor. In fact, in a report published in June 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 59 percent of car seats are improperly used. This is a rather scary percentage, so the folks at 4Moms decided to do something about it.

In an effort to solve this glaring safety issue, 4Moms developed an innovative self-installing, rear-facing child seat. First unveiled at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the car seat is attached using the LATCH system, and its base contains 20 sensors that level the seat and tighten straps.

Users report that the ergonomic seat keeps their children comfortable. The futuristic 4Moms child seat pairs with a user-friendly app that monitors the seat while you’re behind the wheel. The seat’s only downfall is its hefty price tag – at $500, it’s one of the most expensive car seats on the market.

2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R: The Lightest Rims so Far

For many drivers, their vehicle serves as both a mode of transportation and a status symbol. Adding flashy rims and spoilers is a popular was to increase the curb appeal of your vehicle, and the 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby takes rims to the next level.

By Latvian98 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Latvian98 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The new Shelby rims are fully insulated, boasting a ceramic coating that’s similar to material used to coat the space shuttle, and the carbon fiber wheels are super lightweight. At about 15 pounds lighter than their aluminum counterparts, Shelby wheels provide increased acceleration and superior handling. For those Shelby drivers who are keen on owning them, thy can expect to pay between $3,433 – $4,053 per wheel.

Koenigsegg FreeValve: A Completely New Way an Engine Works

A Popular Science Grand Award winner, the Koenigsegg FreeValve is considered the first camless engine the world has ever seen. Koenigsegg, a dynamic supercar company based in Sweden, developed its FreeValve engine so that vehicle combustion and valve control are more precise. It took 13 years for Koenigsegg to perfect the FreeValve’s design, which trades in the clumsy camshaft that’s an internal combustion engine standard for electro-hydraulic-pneumatic actuators.

Freevalve from Freevalve on Vimeo.

Many other automakers were also testing the idea of developing such an engine, especially since this idea has been floating around for decades, but Koenigsegg beat them to it.  The FreeValve is not yet widely available, but it should become available very soon. There’s still plenty to test out on the system, but for now, it looks very promising.

Advantages of using actuators instead of a camshaft include superior fuel economy and power. Where the camshaft opens and closes valves using a spinning rod that provides only a limited range of motion, actuators are attached directly to the vehicle’s exhaust and intake valves. This means that combustion, timing, and position can be controlled within individual cylinders. In essence, you may have a four-cylinder vehicle, but you’ll feel as though you have 250 horsepower under the hood.

HERE HD Live Map: The Most Detailed Map

Once a futuristic idea, automated vehicles are already sharing our roads, and in greater numbers than ever before. With the increase of automated vehicles comes the need for streamlined apps and programs that keep those automated cars on the right path.

In 2016, HERE unveiled their HD Live Map, which they say is five times more accurate than current GPS technology. The cloud-based HD Live Map records road data to an unprecedented accuracy of 4 inches, logging obstacles, speed limits and lane markers, and it updates almost constantly to ensure precision accuracy and real-time road conditions.

HERE, which flies under the Nokia banner, will continue to improve HD Live Map. After logging 1.8 million road miles across Europe and the U.S., the company will begin to add human driver data to their Live Map beginning in 2017.

2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class: Cars are Talking

Talking cars aren’t just for animated kids’ movies anymore: Always looking to make your ride safer and more comfortable, luxury brand Mercedes-Benz has introduced its E-class of “talking” vehicles. With a starting MSRP of $53,075, the 2017 E-class will continuously scan the roads for any issues that may impact your commute. You’ll receive traffic updates and potential hazard alerts in real time via a 4G connection to a cloud-based server.

While industry insiders predict that V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) communication will be standard within the next 10 years, as it stands today, Mercedes-Benz has taken steps to be at the head of the class.

Innovative Driving in 2016 and Beyond

We have entered an exciting age of vehicle innovation. From vehicles that ride like a luxury sedan but handle like a racecar, electric cars that exceed the 200-mile range, all the way to a completely new engine type, 2016 has brought us myriad features designed to make driving more fun and safer than ever. Along with autonomous vehicles sharing our roads in greater numbers, and sharing data with each other, we can’t wait to see what life-altering innovations are waiting just around the corner.


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