Car manufacturers are incorporating an inordinate amount of technology into their vehicles nowadays. Despite their best efforts, however, there are a number of things you can do to geek your ride. From one little gadget to a full-fledged car mod, there’s always something else that makes your car one step closer to the batmobile.
GPS, OnStar and navigation Systems
Hate being lost? GPS is the answer. The latest in-car navigation systems feature voice recognition and touchscreen technology. GM’s OnStar provides peace-of-mind in the case of an accident, but some say that the system enables Big Brother to track your every move. More advanced navigation systems can direct you to the nearest gas station or pizza joint instead of requiring a specific address. Some can even provide you with other data like stock quotes, news and sports scores.
If you haven’t heard of war driving, it is the practice of driving around, locating wireless networks, and “sharing” other people’s bandwidth. Black-hat hackers sometimes use war driving simply to find vulnerable networks or as a method of anonymity. This practice obviously requires a portable computer which leads to our next tip…
Put a computer (or two) inside
How cool would it be to have a computer at your disposal in the car? Many police departments now outfit their cars with a laptop computer mounted at an angle over the passenger seat. Hardcore geeks will do the same. Once you put one computer in your car, why not add a file server for music and storage? You can fit it under the seat or in the trunk and connect it to other devices in the car via a wireless network.
What do you do with a computer in your car? Bring your collection of music and movies along. Connect it to OBD (see below). Get online from anywhere. I can hear you now: “Anywhere?” well, anywhere with a cell phone signal. Verizon has a service that enables you to get online as much as you want for $60 a month (on top of your regular cell phone bill).
Here’s a simple one. Get a grip pad to set on the dash or the center console. This gives you a place to set your cell phone within easy reach. You can also set your iPod or sunglasses down. The great thing is, you can usually take a corner fairly fast and your stuff won’t move an inch.
Radar and laser detectors; jammers
If you have a lead foot, it’s worth investing in a radar detector. There are many models available from $40 to $400. Make sure to get a model that can detect K, Ka, and laser. If your chosen detector picks up on X band, so much the better, but make sure you can disable it. X band is a common source of false alarms (especially near traffic lights).
OBD stands for On-Board Diagnostics. This system is built in to nearly all vehicles sold after 1996. If you have a laptop in your car, you can usually purchase a special cable that will allow you to view a real-time stream of data from nearly every sensor in the car. Want to know the left front wheel speed in real-time? You got it. OBD II provides many different data streams. You can view the horsepower and torque at any RPM, see how fast you can do 0-60mph, or find the actual gas mileage at any given speed and save some money at the pump.
OBD technology also helps to diagnose problems with your vehicle. When the “check engine” light comes on, you’ll be able to tell whether it’s a real problem or just a faulty circuit, and you can even reset it yourself without having to take the car in (make sure you know what you’re doing).
Get things going
A feature typically sought after in colder climates.Wouldn’t it be nice if your vehicle sat idling, heated and defrosted, in the morning? You can install a remote starter that enables you to start the car from indoors and let it warm up. This is a feature typically sought after in colder climates, but it can also be used to start the A/C and cool things down.
Assuming you’ve got the basics covered like power locks and A/C, there are many features that you should consider when buying a new car. Heated seats, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, sunroof… A geek’s ride may not have all the creature comforts, but if you’re buying a new car, it only adds to the tech factor. Other cool features to look for in a new car include:
> Automatic tire pressure monitoring
> Adaptive cruise control
> Headlights that point in the direction of a turn
> Backup camera
> Adjustable suspension
> Push-button start (No actual key required)
> Bluetooth to integrate with your phone
> Side/curtain airbags
> Traction control
> Halogen/Xenon lights
If your car has all these features, well, you’re probably a little too much of a geek. But I’d sure like to check out your car sometime.