BMW AG takes it a step further in its new electric i3 model, which hits showrooms in a few months. Not only does it help to search for parking spots big enough to squeeze into, it will then completely take over the job by controlling the steering, braking and acceleration.
Automakers are also competing with simpler features like a vacuum cleaner in Honda’s top-selling Odyssey minivan, a sensor that will pop the trunk of a Mercedes, Ford or Cadillac when your hands are full, and “EZ-lift” tailgates on the new GMC pickup.
However, the biggest innovations are under the hood, said Bob Carter, head of automotive operations at Toyota Motor Sales USA.
Complex hybrid engines have become commonplace and people are even getting used to seeing purely electric cars like Nissan Motor Co Ltd’s Leaf on the road.
The holy grail of “green” cars — hydrogen fuel-cell engines that emit nothing but water vapor — is already on the road in test markets and will be hitting Toyota showrooms next year. Rivals Ford Motro Co, Honda, BMW, Daimler AG and the Renault-Nissan Alliance will not be far behind.