A week on vacation in Florida recently prompted me to think how far we've come in recent automotive electronics developmentsspecifically in those features directly visible to the driver and once thought of as luxury options that some of us now consider basic.
First some background on where I'm coming from. My two cars were bought used (letting someone else take the depreciation hit)a 1997 BMW 528 and a 2004 Volkswagen Passat Diesel wagon. The former has a trip/mileage computer, cruise control, and traction control. The VW has electronic stability control (ESC) instead. The compact rental I picked up in Orlando was barebones with none of the above.
While stability control is not needed in most driving situations, having been on a watered-down test track with and without ESC engaged, I can only applaud the mandated requirement starting in 2009 for this feature to help drivers recover from marginal situationsand wouldn't buy another car without it. Even tire-pressure-monitoring (also another regulated requirement) could be useful between my own periodic measurements.
In my rental experience, not having cruise control (which another engineer friend convinced me improves gas mileage) was missed on long day trips. Even lack of an outside temperature sensor and mileage computer proved annoying (or have I become soft?).
I didn't opt for navigation services, since being an engineer and a spatial/visual kind of guy, a AAA map is all I need. Although, after sitting in a traffic jam on I4 in Orlando, real-time traffic information could tip me in its favor to avoid tie-ups.
What electronics features once looked on as nice-to-have options do you regard as essential to driving today? Go to our Forum page and give us your thoughts.