Should I make my car a smart car?
January 21, 2013 8:00 AM   Subscribe

We talked about smart houses before on AskMeFi, now what about smart cars? I'd like to smarten up my car a little, especially for parking.

I've come across references to what were called "ass whiskers" here on AskMeFi as parking aids, so I googled "parking sensors" and came up with some hits and reviews - unfortunately almost all of them were UK-based, and I'm in the US.

Do any of you US-based drivers have parking sensors? Do they help? Parking is my Achilles' heel. The only accident I've had in many years of not-even-a-speeding-ticket driving has been a parking-lot fender-bender. I drive around the block rather than try to park in a tight space. I'm just awful at parking even with practice. I'm thinking sensors will help.

Are there any other devices you use to raise your car's IQ? I already use GPS. Anything else that I can buy that isn't outrageously expensive that is worth it? Especially for parking and for driving at night (I can drive at night and my eye doctor says my night vision is great. I just don't like driving at night that much. In fact, I hate nighttime in general but that's another post.)

I drive a 2004 Honda Civic, so keep that in mind when making suggestions as I don't want to spend so much on devices that I might as well buy a new car. I'd like to keep this one for a while, as it's still a perfectly serviceable car.
posted by Rosie M. Banks to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Backup camera? Folks who I know with SUVs swear by them, though I've not used them myself.
posted by jquinby at 8:03 AM on January 21, 2013

As you implied, parking sensors are pretty widespread in cars in the UK (at least newer, higher-spec cars).

They work pretty well, although their sole purpose is to tell you that the bumper (fender?) is getting close to something. They don't help you to align the car correctly or turn the wheel at the right point to parallel-park properly.

Having said that, there's definitely a benefit in knowing precisely how close you are to other cars/walls.

Of course, what you really need is a car that parks itself.
posted by pipeski at 8:08 AM on January 21, 2013

Backup camera > parking sensors. Helps you avoid children and also park perfectly within the lines.
posted by acidic at 8:11 AM on January 21, 2013

Best answer: Oh, and not a gadget per se, but I found Car Talk's guide to proper rear view mirror use to be something of a revelation.
posted by jquinby at 8:12 AM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: For other devices: If they'd had the paid version rather than the annoying ad supported version when I tried it, I'd have kept iOnRoad on my phone. In fact I may go back and put it on my phone again. It's a lane deviation and follow distance warning system.

It looks like there are a couple of others now for Android, might be worth trolling through Google Play and spending a couple of bucks to try a few options out.

There are also dedicated LDW (lane departure/deviation warning) and follow distance warning systems, they've been part of commercial trucking for a long time now, with measurably positive results, and seem like a generally cool technology. But for $5 and a dash mount on your smart phone seems like something to try.
posted by straw at 8:40 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, one more, but only if you are well and truly into data geekery: you can get widgets like this one to expose all sorts of data and statuses. Doesn't do much for parking, though.
posted by jquinby at 8:57 AM on January 21, 2013

Riffing on jquinby's suggestion: If your car doesn't have a mileage gauge (and a quick Google search suggests that it doesn't), I also have a ScanGauge II. Like the widget he links to, but cheaper and stand-alone (though it does require routing a wire).

Hooks to the ODB-II port on any car since 1997 (and a few before that), gives you all sorts of information about the inner workings of your engine, including mileage, intake air temperature (which can be pretty close to outside air temperature, depending on how the ducts are routed), etc. And you can read the service light codes and Google them, telling your friends what's wrong with their cars is a great party trick.

And lots of people report that knowing their instantaneous mileage helps them get better mileage overall.

(Note: I have a 1997 Mazda B6000/rebadged Ford Ranger pickup that is apparently the one model year and one vehicle that doesn't have speed/distance information on the ODB-II port, so I don't get mileage, just gallons per hour fuel consumption. But it should work fine on yours.)
posted by straw at 10:10 AM on January 21, 2013

Response by poster: I've downloaded IonRoad and adjusted my mirrors. So, those are quick and inexpensive things that help - thanks! In CA you can't mount a device right on the windshield, so I hope IonRoad works on a dashboard mount.

Apparently there is a British version of the Prius that parks itself, but Toyota will only be introducing the US version "sometime in the future." Bah. Well, by that time I might be in the market for a new car, though what I really want is a Mini.

I'm considering parking sensors and/or a backup camera, as well.

Not really a data geek, unfortunately, so some of the more esoteric devices probably won't work for me, but they're interesting to read about.

Keep the suggestions coming!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:24 PM on January 21, 2013

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