Industry technologies change and update with every new car model that hits the road. Many companies like Google and Tesla have pushed the possibilities of energy-efficient and autonomous driving into the forefront of the automotive industry and into public minds.
Connected cars operate through a system of vehicle-unique data that communicates within a larger web of other cars, buildings and traffic infrastructure. Manufacturers have increasingly been building new models with this type of cutting-edge technology. From tracking devices, logging hardware, interactive software and advanced sensors, some cars are not only driving machines, but are largely capable of running on their own and doing so safely.
Makers like Volvo and Peugeot fit their cars with computer screens, tablets and sensors, according to Qz.com. Self-parking capabilities are becoming more common, as well.
However, you don't need a brand-new car to experience the benefits of connectedness. There are multiple products available to drivers that you can install or download yourself. These can greatly change the way you behave on the road and how you interact with your car.
Recently, AT&T released an app that helps drivers navigate through voice commands, according to the company website. Known as the AT&T Drive, the app also provides traffic updates in your area.
"Each of these apps provides an enhanced in-car experience for users while also keeping driver safety top of mind," said Chris Penrose, senior vice president of Emerging Devices, according to AT&T. "AT&T Drive's app selection was developed so that drivers could make more informed decisions while they are driving to help them from point A to point B safely, but do so as efficiently and comfortably as possible."
You can also have logging hardware installed in your car to collect data about your driving, including miles driven, braking time and how well you react to hazards - all of which can help car insurance providers create a policy that better suits your needs and habits, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
In a few years, there could be a highly developed Internet system that stores and transfers driving data to make roads safer, according to Wired. This will be similar to Apple's iCloud service, but made for the entire driving network. Your car would be notified if there are any available parking spots nearby and then it would drive itself and park it safely in the spot. Your car could also be made aware of any upcoming traffic jams or lights that are about to change. This cloud system can be operated through software in your car, but some similar aspects are already available through phone apps.
"They're getting to a point where mechanical engineering excellence is being commoditized," said Thilo Koslowski, automotive analyst at Gartner, according to Time Magazine. "Cars all drive well at this point. These in-vehicle technologies give car companies a way to differentiate their offerings but it also actually meets new needs that consumers have to extend the digital lifestyle inside the vehicle."