Future car tech: Tomorrow's tech today
More than a motor
Toyota Land Cruiser
Is your car driving you up the wall? Try the Toyota Land Cruiser, which thanks to its Crawl Control or “CRAWL” function, can do that more or less literally, without you needing to do much more than sit back and enjoy the ride.
The feature, first introduced in 2007, is activated via a dashboard switch and takes on inclines up to pyramid-like steepness, while you keep your feet away from the pedals and steer.
Available as standard on Toyota’s flagship LC5 trim level, Crawl Control only works when the vehicle’s low-range transmission is selected. The brakes and engine revs are automatically controlled, with five speed settings.
Of course, the trick with taking steep hills, especially when off-roading, is to remember the tortoise and the hare: slow and steady wins the race. Crawl Control does that for you, keeping the car moving smoothly up that hill at decidedly stately speeds. The lowest setting is barely 1mph, with even top speed being no more than a decent walking pace.
The system has obvious benefi ts for those rare and unusual 4x4 owners who don’t live in the city. The regular pace avoids the risk of wheelspin on treacherous, muddy slopes and cuts the amount of body movement on severe terrain. The latter will prevent the vehicle from “bottoming out”, and dragging its undercarriage on unforgiving rocks. When wading a river, this steady pace also reduces the risk of engine fl ooding.
Even if you’re completely stuck and going nowhere, Crawl Control will work to try and free you, and it can also negotiate you down steep slopes – descents are frequently hairier than going uphill as the risk of losing control or even fl ipping the vehicle are increased.
If that isn’t impressive enough, it also does all of the above in reverse gear. That verges on showing off, in our opinion...
Vehicle: Toyota Land Cruiser LC5
Engine: 3.0-litre 171bhp diesel
Economy and emissions: 34.9mpg and 214g/km CO2
0-60MPH: 11.7 seconds
Blue&Me is the name of Fiat’s in-car infotainment system, and means the car effectively runs on Microsoft Windows Mobile. Thus the latest models, including the Fiat 500, have a branded USB port on the dashboard or between the front seats, all ready for your MP3 player. As the name suggests, Bluetooth is used to sync with your phone so it works handsfree and can even read out texts. Navigation options include cunning integration with TomTom’s satnavs, or a built-in touchscreen.
Vehicle: Fiat 500
Engine: 1.2-litre 68bhp petrol
Economy and emissions: 58.9mpg and 113g/km CO2
0-60MPH: 12.9 seconds
If passing your driving test was something you rather assumed you’d done with, think again. Standard on every Honda Insight petrol/electric hybrid car is a coaching system designed to teach you how to get from A to B in a more eco-friendly way. It’s based on the colour around the digital speedo: you’re less of a planet-killer if it glows green. However, press the throttle too hard and it will turn blue which, as with humans, is a bad thing.
Vehicle: Honda Insight
Engine: 1.3-litre 88bhp petrol + 14bhp electric motor
Economy and emissions: 61.4mpg and 105g/km CO2
0-60MPH: 12.5 seconds
Do your passengers moan about not being allowed to watch video because you find it too distracting? Range Rover’s DualView system could be the answer. Fitted at the top of the centre console, it uses “smart pixel” technology which shows a different image depending on the angle. Thus you can view the satnav on it while your passenger watches a DVD. It’s standard on Autobiography and Vogue SE and a £600 option on Vogue.
Vehicle: Range Rover Autobiography
Engine: 3.6-litre 272bhp diesel
Economy and emissions: 25.4mpg and 294g/km CO2
0-60MPH: 8.5 seconds
Park Assist has become a common feature on modern family cars, letting you parallel park with the minimum of effort and the maximum use of cool tech. Genius… But what about perpendicular spaces, as in carparks and driveways? Sure, they’re easy enough to drive straight in to, but that means you have to reverse out. The all-new Kia Sportage, on sale in the autumn, will be set up to allow assisted reversing into perpendicular bays, so you can make a swifter, safer exit. They’ll also do parallel parking, of course…
Vehicle: Kia Sportage 2010
Engine: 2.0-litre 136bhp diesel
Economy and emissions: 513.mpg and 147g/km CO2
0-60MPH: 11.3 seconds