Every day and every year car companies find and create different technologies and features to make driving safer and easier. In my over two decades of covering car technology as a journalist, there’s never been a better time than right now – both from a professional standpoint as well as my own consumer perspective. The last five years or so have seen an explosion of technology features that make owning and drive a car more convenient and safer. Given that this is the week for expressing gratitude, here are five car tech features I’m most thankful for.

Driver Assist Systems

Of all the latest and greatest tech features available in modern vehicles, driver like forward-collision and lane-departure warning are the most valuable since they have the potential to save lives. More than once, I’ve taken my eyes off the road for just a second or two and had a system warn me of a vehicle slowing down ahead or that I was inadvertently veering out of my lane. And I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t been alerted. Even better is the next step in active safety: systems such as forward-collision and lane-departure prevention that can automatically apply the brakes to avoid or mitigate a collision or steer the car back into its lane. And then there’s the convenience of driver assist systems such as active cruise control and automatic high beams that make driving not only safer but also more pleasant.

Connected Search

I remember when mapping for vehicle navigation systems used to come on CD-ROMs – and you had to switch them out when moving from state to state. Later, mapping software was housed on DVDs, embedded hard drives and, more recently, on SD cards, making the software more comprehensive and easier to update. But now if a system doesn’t have some form of connected search using an embedded modem or, even better, a driver’s connected smartphone, I consider it antiquated. Whether it’s a familiar search engine like Bing in Toyota and Lexus vehicles or Yelp in cars and trucks from Fiat Chrysler, being able to go online to search for a destination or services – like you would with a portable device, but without getting distracted by it while behind the wheel – is quick and convenient. I always use the example of the time I was out and about and needed to find a lighting repair place to fix a lamp. I just entered a search term into the Bing app in a Toyota Camry and found a nearby location, its phone number and even reviews.

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