7 Best Car Features That Will Change the Way You Drive

We may receive compensation from the providers of the services and products featured on this website. Read our Advertising Disclosure.

In the ever-evolving world of automotive technology, car features have transitioned from simple conveniences to essential components that significantly enhance driving safety, efficiency, and comfort. Modern cars, from the family-friendly sedan to the rugged pickup truck, are equipped with an array of advanced features designed to revolutionize the driving experience. These innovations not only make trips more enjoyable but also contribute to better fuel economy and reduced environmental impact, proving that new cars are offering more value now than ever before. As car companies continue to innovate, understanding these features becomes crucial for car owners looking to make the most out of their vehicles.

This article will delve into nine surprising car features that are changing the way people drive. From the gas tank locator arrow, a small but incredibly useful feature that lets drivers know on which side of the car the petrol station filler hatch is located, to advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that increase vehicle safety through electronic stability control and lane departure warnings, we will explore how these features not only enhance the driving experience but also promise enhanced safety and convenience. Additional insights into lesser-known features such as ambient interior lighting, innovative storage solutions, and blind-spot monitoring will also be highlighted, offering readers a comprehensive overview of how modern technology is shaping the future of driving.

1. Gas Tank Locator Arrow

Understanding its Purpose

The gas tank locator arrow, a small yet significant feature found in almost every modern fuel gauge, serves a practical purpose by showing drivers which side of the car the fuel filler is located on. This feature is hailed as a brilliant piece of human-machine interface design, yet the identity of its inventor remained unknown for a long time. The inception of this idea can be credited to Jim Moylan, a designer at Ford, who, after experiencing the inconvenience of choosing the wrong side of the car to fill up in the rain, proposed the idea in 1986. Initially implemented in the Ford Escort and Mercury Tracer in 1989, this feature has since become a staple in vehicle design, offering a simple solution to a common problem. Despite some debate over its origins, with evidence suggesting a possible earlier introduction in the Mercedes-Benz W123 in 1976, Jim Moylan is widely recognized for his contribution to making this feature a standard in the automotive industry.

How to Use It

To utilize the gas tank locator arrow, drivers need only glance at their fuel gauge. Here, they will find the arrow, often shaped like a triangle, pointing either to the left or right. This indicates the side of the car on which the gas tank is located, thereby eliminating any guesswork at the petrol station. Surprisingly, automotive industry experts suggest that only one in ten drivers is aware of this feature, despite its presence in nearly all newer model cars built in the last decade. The indicator is typically located next to the fuel icon on the dashboard, and while the fuel handle image may not always align with the direction of the gas cap, the arrow reliably points to the correct side. This small but crucial detail ensures drivers can easily identify the correct side for refueling, especially when driving unfamiliar vehicles such as rental cars. Furthermore, the absence of a standard placement for gas caps across different car manufacturers underscores the utility of the gas tank locator arrow, offering significant convenience and reducing stress during refueling stops.

2. Road Condition Indicator

Temperature Sensing and Ice Warning

Modern vehicles have embraced technology that alerts drivers when the outside temperature is detected to be at or below freezing, which can significantly impact the conditions of roadways. This feature, recently introduced, uses temperature readings and other information to help warn drivers when roads are or may become icy. For instance, a driver shared an experience of a yellow triangle with a snowflake-looking symbol appearing on their dashboard during a cold drive in the mountains, indicating potential icy roads ahead. This symbol, often unfamiliar to many, requires consultation of the vehicle’s manual for clarification. The feature’s activation, typically around 39 F, especially after rainy conditions, showcases its sensitivity to environmental changes that could lead to ice formation on roads.

Another innovative approach to road condition monitoring is the IceAlert® system, which involves temperature-sensitive reflectors mounted on standard guideposts. These reflectors act as normal delineators until temperatures near freezing, at which point they turn blue, visually alerting drivers of potential freezing conditions ahead. The effectiveness of this system is maximized through site-specific designs that consider traffic speed and topography, ensuring drivers have adequate time to react to the ice-warning. IceAlert® reflectors, recommended to be installed in a series of 3-5 for optimal visibility, stand as a testament to the advancements in passive road safety measures.

Practical Benefits for Safer Driving

The integration of road condition indicators in modern cars offers practical benefits for safer driving, especially in areas prone to ice and snow. Road condition sensors, for instance, provide snow crews with accurate readings of roadway conditions, such as the difference between air temperature and pavement temperature, moisture levels, and the type of precipitation. This data is crucial for executing a targeted approach to each storm, optimizing snowfighting routes, and ensuring the timely application of anti-icing treatments.

Road Weather Information Systems (RWIS) play a pivotal role in aggregating this data, offering a centralized hub for private sensor suppliers to send road condition data. RWIS combines this data with atmospheric data to generate “nowcasts” and forecasts of driving conditions, aiding road management agencies in their decision-making processes. The use of in-ground sensors, a recent advancement in road surface technology, provides highly accurate surface condition readings directly from the pavement, helping identify problem areas during freezing rain events. These sensors, being wireless, maintenance-free, and cost-effective, represent a significant step forward in road safety technology.

Furthermore, calculating road friction levels using sensors not only enhances public safety but also offers economic benefits by saving resources and reducing environmental strain. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) reported savings of $180,000 in a single winter by employing sensors to calculate road friction, highlighting the financial and environmental advantages of this technology. Through these innovative features, modern vehicles and road safety systems are significantly contributing to safer driving experiences, particularly in challenging weather conditions.

3. Electronic Stability Control

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is a groundbreaking safety feature that has transformed vehicle handling and driver control in modern cars. This advanced system uses automatic computer-controlled braking of individual wheels to prevent the vehicle from spinning out or plowing out, especially during critical driving situations where road traction is compromised due to slipping wheels. The technology behind ESC is designed to assist drivers in maintaining control over their vehicles during hard-steering maneuvers, significantly reducing the risk of rollovers by keeping the tires on the pavement.

Mechanism and Importance

ESC functions by monitoring steering wheel activity and speed sensors on each wheel. When the system detects that the vehicle is not responding to the driver’s steering input—indicating a loss of control—it automatically engages to adjust for oversteer and understeer. This is achieved by applying or easing the brakes on each wheel and, if necessary, modulating the engine throttle to bring the vehicle back onto the intended path. The system is highly effective in preventing single-vehicle crashes, which often occur due to over-correcting during emergency maneuvers on slippery roads or when hydroplaning.

The importance of ESC cannot be overstated, with numerous studies confirming its effectiveness in reducing the probability and severity of crashes. According to a trusted source, ESC could reduce the risk of rollovers by 80% and prevent almost one-third of fatal crashes, highlighting its critical role in enhancing vehicle safety and saving lives.

When to Utilize the ESC Deactivation Feature

While ESC is an essential safety feature for everyday driving, there are specific scenarios where deactivating it may be beneficial. For instance, when starting in deep snow, sand, or gravel, allowing more wheel spin can be advantageous. Similarly, when driving with snow chains, deactivating ESC temporarily can improve traction. Most vehicles enable the temporary deactivation of ESC by pressing the “ESC off” button located on the dashboard or center console. It’s crucial to reactivate the control once the need to have ESC turned off is completed.

Additionally, car manufacturers have developed override control systems for high-performance driving situations where ESC might intervene undesirably. These systems allow for partial or full deactivation of ESC, providing drivers with more control over their vehicles during spirited driving. The override control can be a single button that disables all ESC features or a multi-position switch for varying levels of intervention.

In summary, Electronic Stability Control is a vital safety feature in modern vehicles, significantly enhancing driver control and reducing the risk of accidents. While its automatic activation is crucial for maintaining vehicle stability under normal driving conditions, understanding when and how to utilize the deactivation feature allows drivers to adapt to specific driving scenarios effectively.

4. Heads-Up Display

Enhancing Focus and Safety

Dashboards in vehicles have long been the central hub for drivers to access crucial driving data such as speed, RPM, oil level, and warnings. However, with the advancement of technology and the introduction of multiple screens in vehicles, it has become increasingly challenging to keep track of this critical information without diverting attention from the road. This issue has highlighted the importance of head-up displays (HUDs) in modern cars. HUDs project essential information directly in the driver’s line of sight on the windshield, significantly reducing driver distraction and enhancing focus on the road ahead. The technology behind HUDs has been refined over the years, making it a mature solution for modern vehicles. The adjustable focal point of HUDs, typically set a few meters ahead on the road, allows drivers to quickly refocus their eyes from the road to the projected display, thereby minimizing the time spent looking away from the driving environment.

One of the key distinctions between different types of HUDs is the focal point. Projected HUDs, for instance, have their focal point set a few meters ahead of the vehicle, creating a projection that appears to float in front of the driver. This setup enables faster eye refocusing compared to emissive HUDs, whose focal point is on the display itself. Despite this advantage, some drivers may find projected HUDs more distracting, especially when the projection mixes with real-world road conditions. Emissive HUDs, on the other hand, require significantly less space within the vehicle’s interior and are better suited to withstand shock and vibration, making them ideal for a wide range of commercial and industrial vehicles.

Key Information Displayed

The primary function of a HUD is to project vital driving information onto the vehicle’s windshield or a panel beneath the driver’s line of sight, effectively acting as both an information tool and a safety feature. This technology eliminates the need for drivers to take their eyes off the road to access information such as vehicle speed, current speed limits, navigation instructions, and more. The range of information displayed by HUDs can vary significantly depending on the carmaker, model, and whether the HUD is a built-in system or an aftermarket solution. Some HUDs allow drivers to customize the displayed features, choosing from options like vehicle speed, engine speed, navigation and infotainment information, turn signal engagement, battery charge, and alerts from safety systems like blind-spot monitoring.

HUDs have evolved to include not just basic driving information but also more advanced data. Some of the best car HUDs on the market can link to a car’s computer or a driver’s phone, offering a wide array of operational parameters in an easily digestible format. While built-in HUDs in modern cars have their advantages, standalone models often provide a broader range of data. These can include not just speed and time but also more detailed metrics like a tachometer, fuel economy, and even alerts for specific conditions such as the vehicle’s potential to tip over for off-roaders. The most advanced HUDs can connect to smartphones, displaying turn-by-turn navigation, contact information, and text messages, with some even supporting Android Auto or Apple CarPlay for vehicles without a compatible infotainment system.

By offering a transparent display of essential information, HUDs play a crucial role in maintaining driver focus on the road, thereby significantly reducing the chances of accidents. The technology behind HUDs, inspired by military applications, has been adapted to provide drivers with a safer and more efficient driving experience, mirroring the benefits seen in aircraft operation.

5. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)

Collision Avoidance and Mitigation

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) significantly enhance vehicle safety by integrating technologies that alert or assist drivers in preventing or mitigating crashes. These systems are particularly adept at identifying potential hazards faster than human reactions, thereby increasing road safety. Collision avoidance systems, a crucial component of ADAS, combine various passive and active systems designed to detect, warn, and prevent potential collisions. Utilizing a range of sensors and cameras, these systems create a comprehensive 360-degree view around the vehicle, providing real-time alerts and interventions when necessary.

Key technologies in collision avoidance include Radar sensors, which use radio waves to detect the distance, velocity, and direction of objects around the vehicle. These sensors are essential for the real-time data they provide, which is integral to the functioning of collision avoidance systems. Additionally, camera sensors work alongside radar and LiDAR sensors to identify objects such as vehicles, pedestrians, and traffic signs, enhancing the system’s effectiveness.

Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) and Lane Keep Assist (LKAS) are prominent features within collision avoidance systems. AEB detects potential collisions using sensors and automatically applies brakes if the driver fails to respond in time, significantly reducing crash severity or avoiding them altogether. LKAS monitors the vehicle’s lane position and gently steers the car back to its lane if it begins to drift. These systems not only protect vehicle occupants but also ensure the safety of pedestrians and other road users by providing timely warnings and taking proactive measures.

Enhancing Road Safety with Technology

The role of ADAS in enhancing road safety is further emphasized through its ability to reduce accidents caused by human error, which is the primary cause of most vehicle accidents. Essential safety-critical ADAS applications include pedestrian detection and avoidance, lane departure warning and correction, traffic sign recognition, and blind spot detection. These systems incorporate advanced interface standards and run multiple vision-based algorithms to support real-time multimedia, vision coprocessing, and sensor fusion subsystems.

The implementation of cameras and sensor fusion in vehicles represents a significant technological advancement. Sensor fusion combines large amounts of data to identify and process objects, much like the human brain, and can respond physically faster than any human driver. This AI-driven function is critical in automatic emergency braking systems, which measure the distance of nearby traffic and alert the driver to potential dangers, taking preventive actions such as tightening seat belts and reducing speed to avoid collisions.

Studies have shown that ADAS technologies like AEB and LKAS significantly reduce accidents. For instance, AEB has been found to decrease rear-end collisions by 50%, while LKAS has effectively prevented lane departure accidents. These technologies not only enhance the safety of the vehicle’s occupants but also contribute to smoother traffic flow and reduced traffic congestion by maintaining consistent speeds and preventing accidents.

As technology continues to evolve, the future of collision avoidance systems and ADAS looks promising, with advancements expected to lead to more autonomous driving features and even better coordination between vehicles and road infrastructure. This ongoing development underscores the critical role of ADAS in transforming road safety and driving experiences.

6. Storage Solutions

Hidden Compartments and Innovative Uses

Modern vehicles like the Toyota Hilux and Buick Enclave are equipped with innovative storage solutions that enhance both convenience and security. For instance, the Toyota Hilux features a secret compartment located inside the car’s rear lights, providing a sleek and almost invisible storage space ideal for storing items like firearms during hunting or fishing trips. Similarly, the Buick Enclave offers underfloor cargo space in the rear, accessible by removing a cover. This space is perfect for stashing smaller suitcases or carry-ons, adding an extra layer of utility for travelers.

Carisma Customs specializes in creating hidden compartments tailored to any vehicle, enhancing security without compromising the vehicle’s aesthetic. These compartments can be installed under seats, within the spare tire area, or inside the dashboard, providing discreet yet accessible spaces for storing valuables securely.

Stow ‘n’ Go Seating and Beyond

Chrysler’s Stow ‘n’ Go seating system, available in models like the Chrysler Pacifica, revolutionizes how space is utilized in minivans. This system allows both the second and third rows of seats to fold flat into the floor, creating a large, flat storage area that is perfect for transporting a variety of items, from groceries to furniture. The system is designed for ease of use; for instance, the front passenger seat can slide forward with the push of a button, making it easier to stow the seats or access items stored in the floor bins.

The versatility of the Stow ‘n’ Go system is highlighted by its ability to be configured in up to 243 different ways, accommodating various sizes and shapes of cargo while still providing seating options. Additionally, some Chrysler Pacifica models include removable plastic cargo bins that fit into the second-row storage compartments, which can be filled with ice to keep food and drinks cold during trips.

These advanced storage solutions in modern vehicles like the Toyota Hilux, Buick Enclave, and Chrysler Pacifica not only cater to the practical needs of drivers but also incorporate elements of security and customization that enhance the overall utility and experience of owning a modern car.

7. Blind-Spot Monitoring

Technology Behind the Feature

Blind-spot monitoring (BSM) systems are essential for enhancing vehicle safety and are particularly beneficial during lane changes. These systems utilize a combination of radar, ultrasonic sensors, or cameras strategically placed on the vehicle, such as on the side mirrors, rear bumper, or other locations, to detect objects in the vehicle’s blind spots. When a vehicle enters the blind spot zone, BSM systems alert the driver through visual, audible, or haptic warnings. This technology is crucial in preventing accidents caused by sudden lane changes or merging maneuvers by providing real-time alerts about vehicles or obstacles in blind spots.

How it Increases Safety During Lane Changes

Blind-spot monitoring systems significantly reduce the risk of accidents during lane changes by alerting drivers to vehicles they may not see through rearview or side mirrors. Studies have shown that vehicles equipped with BSM experience a 14% reduction in lane change crashes and a 23% reduction in injuries from these accidents. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that rear-end collisions were reduced by 26% with the use of BSM, and the combination of blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert reduced backing crashes by 78%. These systems are especially useful for drivers of larger vehicles like trucks and SUVs, which have larger blind spots and can benefit greatly from the additional awareness provided by BSM.

The Top 5 Car Technology Breakthroughs of 2024


Through the exploration of groundbreaking car features, from the practicality of the gas tank locator arrow to the life-saving potential of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), it’s clear that the automotive industry is not just keeping pace with technology—it’s driving innovation forward. These features, including but not limited to electronic stability control, ambient interior lighting, and ingenious storage solutions, not only redefine our driving experience but also promise enhanced safety, convenience, and efficiency. The introduction of elements such as lane departure warnings and blind-spot monitoring further underscores the commitment of car companies to vehicle safety, ensuring that every journey, whether it’s a long drive or a quick trip to the grocery store, is as secure as possible.

The significance of these advancements cannot be overstated, as they collectively represent a leap towards the future of transportation—one where convenience, safety, and environmental responsibility converge. As car owners and enthusiasts, our journey is made more exciting and reassuring with these developments. From the petrol station to the open road, and across every sharp turn or long stretch, modern cars equipped with these features guide us, protect us, and open up a world of possibilities. As we look to the future, it’s evident that the path of automotive innovation, fueled by the relentless pursuit of improvement by car companies, is one that leads to an ever-improving driving landscape for everyone.

Numerous cutting-edge automotive technologies are reshaping driving in the future and making every trip safer, more effective, and incredibly pleasurable. Everything in your car is made with convenience and safety in mind, from the subtle ambient lighting that sets the mood to the useful gas tank locator arrow that directs your attention to the fuel cap on your dash. Certain features, such as the anti-lock braking system (ABS), ensure your ride is safe even on slick roads by adjusting when necessary during sharp turns and inclement weather.

Modern technological innovations like dash cams and the incorporation of virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant make it simple to stay safe and connected. With just a simple “Hey Google” or “Hey Siri,” you can send a text message, send directions to your preferred locations, or even change the performance settings of your vehicle. These systems respond to voice commands. In the cargo area, ambient lighting not only improves visibility but also adds a stylish touch. An optional mobile app function transforms your smartphone into a vehicle control center, enabling you to lock doors, monitor fuel economy, and locate your car in a crowded parking lot.

Electric vehicles are a wise financial decision because they combine features like regenerative braking systems, which increase fuel efficiency while also providing tax credits. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) improve safety with technology that feels like having an extra-watchful family member on board. Examples of ADAS include those that use cameras at the front bumper or monitor head movement to make corrections in real time.

Additionally, the auto industry is adopting features that appeal to tech-savvy consumers. For example, Android phones can now easily integrate with the system of your car, displaying notifications on the screen or even on your phone’s lock screen. Modern cars are designed to meet modern needs and concerns; this is evident in the tax deductions available for advanced safety features, the usefulness of hidden storage spaces within the rear doors, and the additional security settings in your vehicle’s system.

Unveiling the Fastest Car in the World in 2024