Carmakers rolling out improved infotainment systems

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Automobile companies are rolling out new infotainment systems with sophisticated features that are easier to use. (KABC)

Your next new car will likely have some kind of screen for controlling features - collectively, the vehicle's "infotainment" system.

"These systems deal with providing entertainment, like audio, whatever your phone might be streaming. And information, and that could be anything from fuel economy, to if we're talking about an electric vehicle, maybe the status of the charge, things like that" said Matt Degen, a senior editor at Kelley Blue Book.

Every car company does things just a bit differently, and tends to roll out their newest infotainment systems with their newest models. For example, Nissan's latest is on their 2018 Leaf electric car.

"Everybody has the Apple Car Play and Android Auto now. But with the Leaf specifically, it's the vehicle information that you can go into. And we're working with Amazon Alexa now, so you can do things like start the car up, lock the doors, honk the horn, even warm it up or cool it down," said Chad Fishburne, a product specialist with Nissan North America.

Subaru's newest StarLink system is found on the XV Crosstrek compact sport utility.

"Our large icons are easy to read. And because of our steering wheel control, it allows you to spend less time looking at your screen and more time focused on the road,' said Charles Ballard with Subaru of America.

Hyundai has a new widescreen infotainment system that will debut on its high-tech Nexo hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, which will be available later this year.

"It's the latest system, and it has a very fast response rate. You can touch the screen and have a very similar experience to using a tablet, by pinching. You can easily zoom in or zoom out," said Gilbert Castillo of Hyundai Motor America while demonstrating the system in the Nexo.

The industry says that these screens actually reduce button clutter on a car's dashboard. And another advantage to these is that they keep you from fumbling with your phone, instead using a built-in screen that is much safer because it sits up high. A great example is being introduced by Acura on its new RDX model.

"Fundamentally with this system we knew that we wanted the screen up high, and far forward, in your natural line of sight. This gives the driver the ability to keep eyes forward on the road," said Andrew Quillin, a product spokesman for Acura.

Acura's system is called True Touchpad, and uses a fingertip pad down on the center console so the driver doesn't have to reach up to move the system's icons.

If you're car shopping, be sure to compare vehicle infotainment features. Take the time to figure out which one you can best live with during a test drive or demo, before you buy the vehicle. Being fully comfortable with these features is a must for both convenience and safety.
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