Five features every new car should have

Five features every new car should have

SCOTT BURGESS
/ The Detroit News
Sometimes the government demands new vehicle features in the name of safety, the environment or some other reason.
Sometimes, these mandates are good: Electronic stability control on all new vehicles will save lives and make roads safer. New roof crush standards may do the same.
Mandates are expensive, however, and consumers ultimately pay for them. Making back-up cameras standard on all new vehicles by 2014 will prevent people from being run over. (The Department of Transportation estimates that back-up cameras will save between 95 and 112 people a year by 2014 at the cost estimated at $1.9 billion and $2.7 billion or about $24 million a life saved.)
Carmakers have to comply with federal mandates, but consumers don’t. If high mileage was the only factor in buying a car, there would be only one kind available. But there are more than 300 nameplates out there and for good reason: consumer demand.
While I have no power to force carmakers to comply, here are five features that every car and truck should have. Not for safety or the environment, but simply because these are some of the best features found in vehicles today. They are mostly inexpensive and just make driving a little bit easier.
No. 1: The capless fuel cap
Ford Motor Co. began deploying this neat little feature a few years ago. Ford calls it Easy Fuel, and eventually this amenity will make it on nearly every vehicle it manufactures. Instead of a traditional twist-off cap, the capless system starts with a cap with a hole in it. The hole opens up when you push the fuel pump nozzle through. Your hand never smells like gas and the engine warning light never comes on because the cap wasn’t properly screwed on (something anyone who has paid $100 to find out might appreciate).
Chrysler Group LLC has also introduced a similar system and more automakers should follow.
It’s simple, and it’s genius.
No. 2: Auto up and down windows
It’s the little things that remind consumers every day why they bought a particular vehicle. Why should only the driver have a window with a one touch feature to lower or raise it? Every passenger deserves the ability to roll his or her windows up and down with a single touch. Volkswagens come with this feature and all the passengers love it. When only one window offers this feature, it tells the consumer that the carmaker has the ability to offer it, but it doesn’t care to. Start caring.
No. 3: Bluetooth connectivity
This is a feature more carmakers are starting to offer, and it’s likely to keep them ahead of the government. Bluetooth connectivity allows the driver to connect his phone to the car’s stereo and create the most expensive speaker phone. It also means hands-free phone operation, which is much safer than hands-free driving.
There are other features that make Bluetooth connections safer than even those other devices that can be connected directly to your ear. When your phone rings, the stereo typically turns off and most phones can be answered by a touch of a button on the steering wheel, so there are even fewer distractions.
The government may not require this feature yet, but give Uncle Sam time. It’s just too good of an idea to pass up.
No. 4: Three blink blinkers
This may be one of the simplest features to use. The three-blink blinkers are part of your turn signal and mean a slight touch to the indicator will make your turn signal blink three times then stop. It’s another small feature that makes driving just a little easier.
Many cars are beginning to add this feature and for good reason. It makes driving easier during both the turn and afterward. The idea is that during highway driving, you can push on your turn signal indicator and move to the other lane before three blinks are up.
If you’ve ever driven behind someone on the highway with their blinker stuck in left, it’s easy to understand why this feature should be mandatory.
No. 5: Blind spot detection
OK, so this is an expensive addition, but one I like. Typically, in each exterior mirror, there’s a small warning light of some sort. Using either cameras or a radar system, the lights gently light up when something is in your blind spot. If you turn your turn signal indicator to move over, the car will issue an audible warning tell you that may not be the best idea.
These systems are seamless and so easy to use. You don’t even realize you’re using it before you’ve already grown used it. It’s even more noticeable when you move into a vehicle that doesn’t have this system. That’s one of the signs of something good.
The key to any of these features is they have to be useful, inexpensive and something the consumer wants.
The government cannot mandate common sense on our roads any more than it can mandate common sense in Congress. But adding a few of these relatively inexpensive features can make it just a little bit easier to head on down the road.

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