Luxury cars aren't just paragons of class and style - they're also frequently used as test beds by automakers looking to introduce brand new technologies and features to the market. Since top shelf premium vehicles already carry a hefty price tag, incorporating expensive new equipment (frequently in the form of options packages) really isn't that much of a concern. This gives companies the chance to refine certain types of gear before letting it trickle down to more affordable models.
Let's take a look at 8 luxury cars that offer intriguing high tech features.
It sounds like something out of science-fiction: a climate control system that communicates with a GPS satellite orbiting overhead in order to track a vehicle's position relative to the sun. In turn, this information is used to keep sunnier sides of the passenger compartment as cool as those in the shade, ensuring a balanced temperature inside the vehicle. The 2012 Acura TL sedan's GPS-linked Temperature Control system isn't ripped from the pages of a futuristic novel - it has been available for years, and it remains the only example in its class of this type of eyebrow-raising technology.
Personal security means different things to different people, and according to Volvo the executives who are the target market for the 2011 Volvo S80 sedan have a legitimate fear of being kidnapped or assaulted in isolated parking lots or garages. As a result, Volvo has installed a heartbeat sensor inside the Volvo S80 that can detect whether a person is hiding in the vehicle. This information is then transmitted to the Volvo Personal Car Communicator (the two-way remote that controls the vehicle's locking and ignition features), warning owners of the potential danger before they open the door. Yet another unique safety feature from the Swedish pioneer.
Even the most diligent driver can find their concentration drifting on a long road trip, especially during the nighttime hours when the scenery seems to merge into a continual black smear zipping along the edge of the highway. The 2012 Mercedes-Benz S-Class offers an Attention Assist feature that is designed to detect when the sedan's pilot is displaying behavior that could indicate that they are either falling asleep or diverting their attention from the road ahead. Attention Assist deploys a series of audio and visual prompts that are designed to draw the eye - and the mind - back to the task at hand and keep all vehicle occupants safe from creeping drowsiness.
Parallel parking can be a major hassle, especially in a sedan with a long wheelbase. The 2012 Lexus LS flagship has been outfitted with the Advanced Parking Guidance System, which offers almost completely automated parallel parking. Drivers simply have to pull ahead of the spot they have selected, line up the car with the space available using the system's crosshairs on the navigation display, and engage the feature. The Advanced Parking Guidance System takes over the steering and guides the Lexus LS alongside the curb, relying on the driver only to regulate its speed by using the brake.
Driving at night can be a stressful experience, especially on unfamiliar rural roads where sudden curves or wild animals could be lurking unseen in the darkness. The 2011 BMW 7 Series helps to mitigate pitch black driving conditions with the BMW Night Vision feature, which integrates an infrared camera with the vehicle's navigation display in order to provide a clear view of the road ahead. Pedestrian Detection technology, bundled with the Night Vision system is also capable of detecting both creatures and people positioned to the side of the roadway, and provides an alert via both the dash and the head-up display.
Traffic doesn't always flow at a regular speed, which can make it difficult to maintain a steady rate of cruise on a busy highway. The 2012 Audi A8 offers an Adaptive Cruise Control feature that makes use of a radar system to gauge the distance between the sedan and the vehicle directly ahead. This information is then used to automatically slow down or accelerate the A8 as needed to maintain safe separation, keeping a minimum distance between the two automobiles at all times with no need for driver intervention. If the car in front of the Audi stops suddenly and the driver does not immediately react, the Adaptive Cruise Control system will sound an alarm to draw attention to the situation.
Large cars typically have more extensive blind spots than their smaller cousins, and the 2012 Buick LaCrosse sedan is no exception. In order to help reduce the chance of a blind spot-related accident, the LaCrosse comes with a Blind Spot Warning System that uses sonar waves to keep track of traffic located on both sides of the automobile. Should a vehicle be detected a small icon illuminates on the exterior mirror, providing a warning that a lane change would be ill-advised until the area is all clear. The system is quite sensitive, allowing it to pick up cyclists and pedestrians as well as automobiles.
Proper lane discipline is one of the keys to avoiding an accident, especially when it comes to crossing the center line or dropping off onto the shoulder. The 2012 Infiniti M offers a Lane Departure Warning and Prevention System that aims to keep the sedan within its lane and protect both driver and passengers from a possible impact. A system of cameras monitors the position of the lines painted on the road, and should the car drift across a lane marker without the turning signal being activated, a warning will sound. If no intervention by the driver is made, the automobile gently pulls the car back across the line by activating the brakes on the opposite side of the vehicle, which allows the driver to maintain steering control while still being protected from a potential collision.