VIP treatment: Latest tech developments for the luxury class
Often the first place new technology breaks ground, the luxury class is a sign of the convenience headed for core fleet cars in the coming years. Alex Grant explains the latest features.
Integration with the ‘Internet of Things’ – where appliances and infrastructure are able to send and receive data – is beginning in the luxury class. It’s not available in the UK yet, but Deutsche Telekom’s Smart Home app can be controlled through iDrive on the new BMW 7 Series. This means the car can talk to its owner’s smarthome, switching devices on or off, checking doors and windows and presetting the heating when the navigation is set to the home address.
The latest S‐Class took a large step towards autonomy in 2013 with its traffic jam assistance and active steering, and the E‐Class has built on that with an assisted lane change feature. Tesla also offers the latter as part of its AutoPilot software, which can now drive in and out of spaces and garages with nobody at the wheel (this hasn’t come to Europe yet). It is available in the E‐Class and 7 Series, avoiding the risk of dirty marks on your suit in tight car parks.
Massaging, heated and cooled seats are nothing new to the luxury class, but the biggest advances are coming in terms of adjustability. The latest Lincoln Continental, recently launched in North America, features 30‐way adjustable ‘Perfect Position Seats’ which can be individually configured to the left and right thighs and includes a rollingpattern massage to reduce fatigue.
Hyundai’s new Genesis brand flagship, the G90, includes software to automatically adjust the seat, steering wheel, outside mirror and head‐up display positions to suit the driver’s body.
More features can mean more complexity, so easy operation is essential and physical buttons are vanishing. BMW is the first to market with a gesture‐controlled infotainment system, offering touch‐free access to functions with a flick or prod of the hand, which seems a logical next step.
Tesla’s infotainment system doesn’t have gesture control, but its entirely buttonfree operating system removes any constraint from features which can be added via over‐the‐air updates – something others are likely to follow.
Improvements to coverage and data speeds – ultra‐fast 5G is due in 2020 – open new possibilities for working on the move, with broadband‐quick onboard WiFi now pretty much expected in this segment. It means rear‐seat
passengers can bring their own mobile device, or use tablets integrated with the car – the latter capable of controlling media and comfort functions from the back. An increasingly important feature as fully autonomous cars bring the commute into work time.
Software such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are foreshadowing what’s likely to be a future where your phone brings your preferences and operating system as well as your calendar, contacts and music into the car. Jaguar and BMW already offer a navigation system which enables the last mile to be guided on foot, using the driver’s phone, while Volvo is planning to offer keyless cars next year, where a phone can allow entry and startup. It means drivers can send a digital key to other family members or coworkers as easily as a text message – technology which is already streamlining check‐ins at some luxury hotels.