My son and I have an ongoing technology partnership – we both subscribe to rumor sites that tell us what are likely to be the next new features in our digital products – phones, tablets, and laptops. Then we discuss which of these features are worth waiting for. Finally, we develop a plan for exactly when we will get the “new generation” product, carefully balancing price vs. features vs. timing.
This got me wondering – why don’t we do a similar thing for new cars? In fact, why doesn’t anyone seem to do this? People simply buy a new car when they need or want one – but there doesn’t seem to be any strategy to it.
I think I know the answer, and I think people would be more satisfied if they looked at vehicle purchases more like technology purchases – which they increasingly are.
Automobiles have been around for over 100 years, and that explains most of it. Ignoring the past few years, we can look at 100 years of automotive progress and see that most of the really big innovations were made a long time ago. It sure would have been worth waiting a model year for air conditioning, automatic transmission, power windows, air bags, even day/night mirrors. But those innovations are all decades old. Cars have come down the “innovation curve” for so many years that the pace of new innovations slowed – the new model was not going to be all that different from the old model.
Compare that to digital devices, where each generation of device is significantly superior to the prior generation, and often a new generation device is worth waiting for (iPhone with Touch ID, for example).
Car tech is ever improving like never before
However, in the past ten years, the pace of innovation in new automobiles has increased dramatically, thanks to technology developments. Today, there are many features that were worth waiting for, and the number of features that are in development are so great that it may be worth waiting for those and planning your new car purchase like you might plan a technology purchase.
Here are some items that may be worth waiting for – items that can have a material effect on your driving safety or enjoyment – even on your vehicle’s resale value. Some of these items already exist on luxury vehicles, and will trickle down to other vehicles in time. Other items have not been introduced anywhere – yet.
Which of these innovations are you willing to wait for?
Semi-autonomous control and safety features:
- stay-in-lane technology
- adaptive cruise control
- automatic parking
- driver-override systems (where the car can override the driver, if for example the driver is accelerating and about to hit something)
- car-to-car communication
- cameras that see all around the vehicle, not just behind you
- self-cleaning windows and heated wiper blades to melt snow
- sensors that talk to traffic lights and tell you when the light will change
- night-vision (and pedestrian detection) assistance and active “heads-up” information that displays on the windshield (a la virtual reality)
- blind-spot monitoring
- exterior airbags (in the event of an imminent collision)
- side-collision avoidance technologies
- CarPlay and other deep phone integration
- wireless charging
- touchpad and biometric entry and start
- voice-based controls
- independent app integration (features such as active health monitoring)
- 48-volt electrical systems (for handling all the new digital features)
- built-in WiFi
- 3-D gesture based controls
- smartwatch integration
- longer-range electric vehicles
- higher-MPG gas vehicles
- more power
- vehicle-tracking for lower insurance rates
- lighter and stronger materials
- trunks and hatches that open with a gesture
- more comfortable and fatigue-minimizing seats
- self-adjusting high beam lights
- deeper GPS integration (so that, for instance, air conditioning automatically switches to “recirculate” when in a tunnel)
- automated valet parking
To get an idea of what features may be in the next generation model, you can start by doing a search. Say you’ve got a 2014 Nissan Altima and you like it. Search “2018 Nissan Altima features” and then do the same for 2019 and 2020. Let your nose lead you, and you’ll soon have a decent idea of what features are coming (keep in mind that any future plans are subject to rumor and change).
If your old car breaks down, by all means get a new one right away. But if you have a two or three year window to take the new car plunge, it may be well worth your time to wait for the features that you want to be in the new car you want.