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Automakers load up on technology in new cars

February 3, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
It seems that no matter what new car you buy these days, it's ready to connect to the world. From entry-level to way upscale, they're all adding technology.

Hyundai offers something beyond phone connectivity called Blue Link. It's sort of their version of GM's OnStar. It offers basic emergency response or allows you to keep track of car maintenance.

"(It) enables our customers to stay more in contact with us as a brand, as well as their dealers and their vehicles," said Michael Deitz of Hyundai.

With an optional package, it can help you plan things out. Sure you can fumble with your smartphone, but that's illegal while driving. This is just pushing one button and talking.

The Blue Link service from Hyundai can keep your kids safer behind the wheel, too. When you're away on a trip, you can set up the program to notify you if the car is being driven in your absence.

Technology can be a bit of a double-edged sword when it comes to modern cars. On one hand, it can help us stay connected to the outside world. On the other hand, even the safest drivers can become disconnected from what's going on out on the road.

In this regard, technology is also coming to the rescue.

More and more advanced systems in a wider variety of cars mean they're able to help you avoid getting into an accident.

"Even the best drivers sometimes can't anticipate a situation, or might be distracted momentarily," said Dean McConnell of Continental Automotive.

So the system can see the car ahead of you stopping suddenly even when you don't. First, it sends a message to warn you, and if you don't apply the brakes enough, it will assist you.

"If you don't apply the brakes at all, it will actually autonomously brake for you to avoid the collision," McConnell said.

Continental doesn't sell these things to the public. They sell them to the companies we buy cars from, and the costs have come down.

"These technologies are not just for the high-end luxury vehicles anymore," McConnell said.