by Mark Ollig
The calendar says September, and for many of us Labor Day signals the official end of summer – although we know there’s still plenty of summer-like weather left.
As some of you may know, for the last few months, yours truly has been car shopping.
Yes, the time has come to retire my use of conveyance manufactured during the last century, and embrace the latest automotive transportation of the 21st century.
Actually, I had enjoyed driving my trusty, old 1999 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor with the big V8 engine.
One favorite story about this car I have told many times is, while waiting at a four-way stop or red light, I would notice the person in the next car moving their head forward, intently looking at my car; they would then quickly reach around their shoulder and put on their seatbelt.
I suppose they maybe thought I was an undercover officer driving the Police Interceptor. Of course, the fact I had the “Police Interceptor” name plate on the car might have influenced them a bit, too.
Over the last 14 years, I would guess 100 people have reached for their seatbelts upon seeing the Police Interceptor driving down the street. This usually brought a smile to my face, as I felt a good deed was performed in knowing someone else was now wearing their seatbelt.
Others, after putting on their seatbelt and driving by me, realized I was not a police officer, and was not driving a “real” police car. These folks would cast a frown at me, as if I had been intentionally fooling them – which, of course, I wasn’t.
Anyway, my most-of-the-time reliable Police Interceptor got me through the heavy snow of many winters. I also felt somewhat protected being surrounded by all the heavy steel. Its gas mileage wasn’t the best, so there were some trade-offs.
With 232,000 miles on it, and the increased frequency of replacing parts, I knew the time had come to retire the Police Interceptor.
Over the years, I had become accustomed to the daily pattern of using my car key for unlocking the door, and starting the Police Interceptor, or any other vehicle for that matter.
I was in for a surprise when I learned the new 2013 car required no key to start it. It only needed one foot on the brake, and the push of a button.
Oh, and no key is necessary to unlock the car door.
I shook my head while watching the salesperson demonstrate how to gain entry to the locked car, needing only to have the car’s keyless access pad in their pocket.
The salesperson reached for and held onto the drivers-side car door handle in order for its wireless radio sensor to pick up the signal from the access pad. After a couple seconds, the sound of the driver’s car door is heard being unlocked.
Remember folks, I am a newbie when it comes to these new cars, and find all the technology in them impressive.
Truthfully, I felt a little overwhelmed when I first sat down in the driver’s seat and gazed at all of the car’s built-in technology, electronics, and displays.
It felt like sitting down in front of a computer console onboard the futuristic USS Enterprise.
The first thing I needed to learn was how to turn the radio on.
In addition to the familiar AM and FM, this new car came equipped with a satellite radio receiver.
The satellite radio and Global Positioning System in my new car get their signals from commercial satellites in a geostationary orbit approximately 22,000 miles above the earth; and yes, I was impressed.
I was like a kid opening the first present during Christmas. I fiddled with the car’s central display screen; it showed detailed information about the car’s gas mileage, tire pressure, and other particulars of the car’s internal systems.
The CD player seemed to be a bit out-of-place. These days, I download most of my music off of the Internet and onto my iPod, which I learned can be connected to the car’s USB port.
Next month, I hope to buy one of the new iPhones and sync it via Bluetooth to the new car. Many of the iPhone’s features and apps will then become accessible via the car’s central display screen.
Another technological item I like on the new car is its built-in navigation, or Global Positioning System (GPS).
It wasn’t very difficult at all to press the correct touch-sensitive labels in order to program and map the destination I wanted.
The salesperson informed me I could also talk to the car and tell it where I wanted to go.
After doing this, the car’s navigation display showed the route on a 3D map. As I traveled, the navigation system visually mapped my route progress, and verbally guided me along the trip.
The car’s state-of-the-art voice-recognition system not only understands speech commands for entering travel destinations, but also for changing radio stations.
When placed into reverse, the car’s built-in rear-view camera shows what is directly behind it on the display screen.
Yours truly has been driving this car for a couple of weeks, and loves the new technology in it.
My wallet also appreciates the car’s efficient fuel economy.
With all the advanced technology inside this new car, it’s like I recently told my brother: “I feel I’m driving an iPhone down the highway.”