This can mean different things to different people. If you are 16 and just received your driver’s license it means you can finally drive without a co-pilot saying “slow down”, “you’re too close”, or “you see the light, right?” Or maybe your co-pilot acted very afraid by constantly stomping on a non-existent brake pedal. I personally avoided that co-pilot.
Here I mean driving places without needing assistance with handling a mobility device and in a vehicle loaded with helpful features. This post is what I learned while car shopping.
I was driving an old minivan that had a back hatch that was difficult for me to open. This and wanting a few of the new safety features – specifically a backup camera sent me exploring newer small to medium SUVs. I felt that the SUV body type would fit my mobility tool kit best.
So, make sure your mobility or other needed assistance tool kit fits and is easily accessible for any new vehicle. Then, consider if these nifty features would also work for you.
Leather or vinyl seats are easier to slide in and out. Also, they are easier to clean.
Cameras are more than just rear facing. I found 360 degree cameras helpful to know what had been dropped around the car before any tire or toy mishaps. They can also let you see how well, or not well you have parked, before other drivers tell you. My purpose was personal safety. I want to know what is hiding in the shadows around the car before getting out. More on those cameras later.
Saved seat positions. Initially, I thought this was a perk to save my and my daughter’s seat positions without the need to readjust height, tilt, and distance from pedals each time we switched drivers. The reality is I have one position for driving and a second, lower, further back position set that is easier for getting into the car. This is a favorite surprise feature.
Heated seats are nice in the middle of winter. They also keep other car occupants from freezing at your preferred cooling temperature setting.
Dual HVAC zones – driver and rest. My minivan had a front seat dash setting and the middle seat row had controls for that and the third row. In theory it is a great idea. However, as the middle row occupants could not reach the controls until they were 7, and they started as infants, it required an adult to guess the setting before driving. With this dual zone I can set the desired temperature for each zone at the dash. So, when I saw that my son was asleep in the backseat with his arms pulled into his shirt, I could easily raise his temperature without changing mine.
Power rear lift & open/close button on both the dashboard and key fob. This was the whole reason I was looking at a new car for me. There are also open and close buttons at the hatch.
A moon roof was the fun feature I wanted as this was the first car in 30 years where I had a say in more than just outside color. Now, beyond the fun factor, it does help if you are a little claustrophobic. Opening the moon roof lets built up heat escape quicker on hot days and lets in a nice breeze on nice days too. I can justify the moon roofs with all kinds of useful functionality, but, really, how cool is it to see trees, planes, clouds, underside of overpasses, the moon, and the stars just by looking up in a car? Yeah, convertible owners, you get that too. Sigh.
Lane position sensor. This sensor in my car is set to vibrate the steering wheel if you are too close or cross a line without signaling. Let It correct your teen driver. This pairs nicely with the blind spot alert. The “you are too close to other objects” alerts are most effective when driving slow – parking, pulling out of the garage, driveway, or parking spot. The dashboard screen will show you what, where, and even danger level (close, very close, or only a couple of inches). I consider these features as “oops, my bad” or “how did that get there?” or “get out of my lane!” conversation starters.
Navigation with route alerts. This can be entertaining. Say someone else is behind the wheel and is ignoring the navigation instructions. Eventually mine will start to show and explain ignored instructions, like u turns! Yes, it will usually recalculate if you take a different path. But, occasionally it will decide the driver is stupid. Picture your ex driving through an unfamiliar city guessing the path and ignoring the nav system. Yes, I did get to experience this and it was worth every penny! The nav system wanted to save us 2 hours. Seriously, it has helped me avoid congestion and accidents, to know when the parallel faster route is fast again, and how to get to new places. My system also likes to judge if the lane size is narrow and if the road is under construction. When a section of a map is displayed on the car’s screen, it will be displayed in relation to the front of the car. No more having to ask “are you holding the map right?” or “have you found where we are yet?” It will also answer the eternal question “how much longer until we are there?” Yes, another worth every penny reason.
Number of driving miles left in the gas tank based on current driving conditions. This says it all.
Bluetooth and Apple/Android Auto connections to your phone. Messages will go to the car’s screen when the car is not moving. Use your phone’s music app and stored music. No more cassettes or CDs stuck in the car’s player! No more stuck listening to a preschoolers favorite CD for the hundred millionth time.
Speaking of phones – usb ports for charging! Plural. No negotiating who gets to power their device first. Or needing to run a cord from the dashboard to the back seat. This would have been so helpful on long car trips when my kids were small.
Automatic headlights. This is more than daytime running lights. Your headlights will come on in the dark – outside or in the garage. I did have a little problem once when a kid changed the setting and I had to figure out where the switch was located at night.
Easy to program garage door open/close buttons. Yes, plural! No more finding the right clicker!
Sliding sun visors. The visor actually slides on its post to block different spots. This is another unexpected bonus feature. I have not used this much, but I know I have wished previous cars had this.
All of these features are not available on all cars yet, but they are not limited to the more expensive models either. Check around and I hope you find these features and more helpful and/or fun! In my next post I will discuss fitting a power wheelchair or scooter in or on a vehicle.