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Tech coverage of the 2005 North American International Auto Show – Ease of use

January 1, 2005

in All Articles,Cars and auto

There are many technologies whose primary purpose is to make our lives easier. Think of the differences between a manual transmission and an automatic. They both accomplish the same thing (shifting gears) but one does it in such a way that the driver has much less to worry about. The following techs echo this theme.


I prefer manual transmissions. My wife likes automatics. Many cars some with a “manumatic” type of transmission, where we can run in automatic mode or shift gears when desired. The 7G-TRONIC from Mercedez-Benz is an electrically-controlled, seven-gear transmission with the ability to perform in manual or automatic mode. Note the simplified shifting controls. Use the lever on the right for forward, reverse and park, and the steering wheel buttons for manual gear shifting.

Advanced Key

Audi has an Advanced Key feature. Put a key in your pocket and approach the car. When you come close, the car will detect the key in your pocket. When you try to open the door, it will be unlocked for you. Get into the car and the steering will be unlocked, and you can then start the car without ever touching the key. This allows the user to enter, drive and leave the car without ever having to worry about unlocking, starting or driving it. Keys can also be assigned to different users, allowing for instant recognition and automatic changes made to seat position, temperature settings and other options.

Park Assist

Several companies offer a version of this technology. It allows you to back up the car and detect what’s behind you. A proximity alarm will let you know if that parallel parking attempt will result in a dented bumper. Some systems offer a digital video display of what’s behind you. Others tell you how far you are from hitting an object by showing an approximate distance and sounding a beeping tone – the faster the beeping, the closer you are. An example of the latter system is from Lexus, pictured below. At the time I took the picture, I was about 5 feet away from the display. (However, I’m not sure if the display is telling me my distance or the time.)

Rain-Sensing Wipers

Automatic rain-sensing wiper systems are common now, and come standard on most of the higher-end cars. Identify them by looking for the rain sensor. It’s usually mounted near the rear view mirror, like on this BMW. When the sensor detects rain, it activates the wipers.

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