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9 Features to Look for When Shopping for a Connected Car

How Many of These Modern Conveniences Have You Experienced?

How Many of These Modern Conveniences Have You Experienced?

An increasing number of automakers are rolling out impressive and advanced connected-car technologies, and not just on expensive luxury models. How many of the following features, from basic to more advanced, have you tried out?

Telematics

GM’s OnStar system pioneered automotive telematics systems and, since its introduction in the mid-1990s, other automakers have created similar services. Today, telematics systems can lock/unlock doors, open/close windows, and use the remote engine start feature from your phone, as well as provide vehicle maintenance reminders and diagnosis. Some systems even offer a Wi-Fi hot spot.

Bluetooth Phone

Although early Bluetooth connections in cars were limited to phone conversations, newer systems can download your smartphone’s phonebook and call history for easier use.

Audio Streaming

Audio streaming allows for playback from your devices’ hard drive or apps such as Pandora, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Spotify, and Aha. In addition to making and receiving phone calls, most modern Bluetooth connections offer audio streaming from your smartphone or Bluetooth-capable MP3 player. Music streaming via USB ports is another option, using your phone or music player’s charge cord to connect the device to the car.

Text Messages

In an increased effort to reduce distracted driving, text messaging functions have been introduced into some Bluetooth systems. Most text message functions include reading incoming messages aloud and offering a list of pre-written replies notifying the sender that you’ll get back to them later. Newer systems allow the driver to send custom messages via a voice-to-text feature.

Navigation

Although navigation systems used preloaded cassette tapes, DVDs, or hard drive-based software, The navigation systems of most modern cars eschew DVD- or hard-drive-based software for Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology to pinpoint a vehicle’s location. Other advances include built-in directories that can search for Points of Interests (POI) such as gas stations, shopping centers, restaurants, and entertainment venues. We suggest looking for systems that can monitor traffic flow and obstructions in real-time and can reroute if needed for the quickest arrival time, though such systems sometimes require a subscription to maintain access to traffic data.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto take the concept of smartphone integration even further than Bluetooth audio streaming. Even though Bluetooth audio streaming allows audio playback from your device, users still need to control the apps from their smartphone, which means taking your eyes and hands off vehicle controls. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow the user to control their smartphone apps from the vehicle’s touchscreen, console-mounted controller, steering wheel controls, or voice commands.

In-Car Entertainment Systems

OEM and aftermarket rear seat entertainment systems have been helping parents on long road trips for years. Modern systems are better integrated into the vehicle and more adaptable than ever. Along with built-in DVD players, most new systems have video game system hookups as well as headphones so the parents can have peace and quiet.

Mobile Apps

Some automakers have added app-based control over their vehicles. With the app downloaded to a smartphone or smartwatch, parents can set audio volume limits, speed warnings, report card, and prevent active safety tech from being deactivated. Apps for electric vehicles (EV) and Plug-In Hybrids (PHEV) can also provide battery charge status, charge time, range, and more.

USB Wireless phone charging

USB ports might now be standard in most vehicles, but they’re not all equally helpful. Some new cars provide ‘fast charge’ USB ports, which can provide more power than a normal port, allowing compatible devices to charge even faster. Some cars now offer wireless charging stations for a less cluttered device-charging experience.