Barry Austin Photography/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Fred Flintstone had a car that he had to power with his own feet; by that standard, all of today's cars are pretty easy to use. But cars are becoming even more user-friendly -- so user-friendly, in fact, that they may not even require a user at all. That's because much of the new car technology involves taking over the role of the driver.
For instance, no longer does a driver need to mind the blind spots, as certain cars come with detection systems that will alert the operator to obstacles in other lanes. If a driver should start to drowse off and drift into another lane, the steering wheel will shake or a voice will alert the driver to what's happening. Gone are the days of manually changing the cruise control speed when the car in front of you slows down -- now, adaptive cruise control uses radar to track the speed of that car and adjust the speed on its own. And since cars with adaptive cruise control can sense just how much space separates them from other cars, they can go into panic mode when cars ahead start hitting their brakes.
But you needn't fear a world of self-driving cars just yet. According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, drivers want features that improve safety, but they're not ready to turn over complete control of the road to a machine just yet [source: Adams]. In other words, while drivers may like alerts about a car in their blind spots, they want to be the ones that adjust their cars to account for it. And the same survey found that drivers are willing to keep their eyes on the road despite the goodies that new cars are offering; fancy features like WiFi or temperature-controlled cupholders are at the bottom of drivers' wish lists, perhaps indicating that drivers know they need to focus on driving, not on checking the latest sports scores online.
While today's drivers may be wary of cars that do too much for them, that doesn't mean they don't appreciate a little help and convenience. Keyless ignition systems save drivers the hassle of looking for their keys, new fuel tank caps that don't require a lot of turning can save time at the gas station, and self-repairing paint, which covers a scratch as soon as it occurs, eliminates the ordeal and expense of the body shop.
For more on new car technology, see the links on the next page.