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7 Technologies That Could Come With Your Next Car


Between anti-collision software, "around-view" monitors, and advanced head-up displays, cars are not quite driving themselves, but we're getting there.

If Back to the Future II got it right, by 2015 flying cars will be whizzing across the skyways of America -- in towns even as sleepy as Hill Valley. In reality, the marketplace won't have a Hovercraft in two years.

Though plucky startups like Terrafugia are hard at work trying to realize Robert Zemeckis' vision, the near (alternate) future will have the average automobile buyer settling for something a tad less lofty. We're in store for some nifty standard features for sure, they'll just have be enjoyed on all four wheels.

Collision avoidance

The airbag of tomorrow is just about here. No longer reserved for luxury brands or in pricey options packages, safety systems that use radar and camera sensors to keep cars at a safe distance from those ahead, alert drivers of an impending crash, and automatically apply the brakes in an emergency are destined to become as ubiquitous as tensioned seatbelts.

Until recently, only the wealthy could afford to suffer from lead foot or road-induced narcolepsy. But veer over Mercedes-Benz, Lexus (NYSE:TM), and Audi. Consumers with more modest budgets (between $30,000 and $40,000) can currently shop for vehicles with collision-warning technology in mainstream models like the Chevrolet (NYSE:GM) Malibu, Subaru Legacy, Ford (NYSE:F) Edge, Volvo S60, Toyota Prius, and Honda (NYSE:HMC) Crosstour -- to name a half-dozen -- with many, many more to come.

Advanced cameras

Blind spots behind our cars reportedly take the lives of 228 people on average every year in back-over accidents, and injure another 17,000. Well, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration intends to kick this problem to the curb. Beginning in January 2015 -- a date that was recently extended from its original deadline of next year -- automakers will be required to make rearview cameras standard equipment in all new vehicles.

But eyes in the back of our cars are just the beginning. Get ready for side cameras that activate automatically with a flip of the turn signal, such as the LaneWatch system from Honda. And feast your eyes on Nissan's (OTCMKTS:NSANY) Around View Monitor, offering a virtual, 360-degree scene above the car. Currently ranging in sticker price from about $1,000 to $2500, with time and higher demand these systems will fast become cheaper and more widely accessible.

Integrated 4G

Threatening to negate every well-intentioned safety feature in the roadsters of the future is the fact that Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter are about to be sitting on the center console. And with a real-time text-to-speech interface, our friends will get to hear via our status updates about the telephone pole ahead, just as we're barreling into it.

The 2.0 version of in-car connectivity came from the glitchy, hardware-based, MyFord Touch platform, but General Motors is leading the charge to bring 4G connectivity to the mass market. The automaker's 2014 fleet of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Opel, and Vauxhall brands will come hardwired with Wi-Fi and Internet capability, accessed via a subscription data plan with AT&T (NYSE:T).

Terrestrial and even satellite radio will eventually be pushed off the dash in favor of systems that connect automatically to sites like Pandora (NYSE:P) or the driver's iTunes (NYSE:AAPL) library. In April, a partnership between Ford and Spotify gave drivers with a Spotify premium account the ability to plug into their streaming music account via the Ford SYNC AppLink, which is voice-activated and dash-controlled.
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