Personal Finance

On your Merc? Stay connected

Parvatha Vardhini C | Updated on January 20, 2018





Caught in traffic? You can now browse the web through the vehicle’s in-built system

Luxury cars today are not a cool and cosy mode of transport alone. Luxury car makers are transforming themselves into a mobility solutions provider and making quick progress in offerings such as infotainment, in-car connectivity, safety and drive assistance features in India. A look at a few things that are on the plate for the uber class and what more could possibly come:

Synced to smart phone

A 2015 study by PwC on ‘Connected Cars’ notes that consumers, especially in Asia, consider connected entertainment as a basic automotive function, expecting flawless integration of their personal devices such as smart phones.

True to this, even small car makers in India today are beginning to offer some connectivity features such as in-car information and entertainment systems. Maruti Suzuki, for instance, introduced its SmartPlay infotainment system on some of the models of the Ciaz last year, with features such as pairability with up to ten smart phones for calls, messages and phone book access, voice-based recognition for dialling and navigation/route guidance facilities.

While these features are passé for luxury cars, they are leaving no stone unturned to step up their offerings. Mercedes-Benz India now allows in-car internet browsing in the CLS 250 CDI, E 400 Cabriolet, S-, GL- ML-class cars and all its AMG vehicles. So if you are stuck in traffic, which is an everyday possibility in our cities, reading the newspaper, checking office mails or fiddling with your phone are not the only options. You can now sit back with your hands free and do the same and more on your Merc.

Using your mobile data plan and a smart phone with bluetooth connectivity, you can either browse the web (when the car is stationary) or access internet-based apps for radio, weather, location information, news, real-time stock market information and social networking on the screen in the car. This feature also comes in handy if you are one of those who doesn’t believe in chauffeurs and invests in luxury cars for the thrill of driving one. You now can take your eyes off your phone not only for calls, messages and playing music but also for internet access.

Similarly, Jaguar Land Rover has recently customised its ‘InControl’ Apps feature in vehicles such as the 2016 Model Year Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Discovery Sport to suit customers in India. Based on integration with your smart phone, this platform will now allow access to Indian apps such as NDTV, Hungama, MapmyIndia and Zomato through the vehicle’s infotainment system.

Outside of this, JLR’s in-car connectivity features include ability to create a Wi-Fi hot spot to provide in-car access to the internet, enabling up to eight wireless devices to be used. This feature is available in the recently launched Jaguar XE in India.

Luxury cars in India have been equipped with many additional safety and drive assist features in recent times.

Safety features

For example, Volvo’s ‘City Safety’ feature available in many of its cars over the last one year or so uses auto braking to avert accidents or at least minimise the impact of crashes that may occur at certain levels of lower speeds. Using laser sensors and camera to monitor the front of the car, it activates the vehicle’s brakes if the system determines that a collision is unavoidable and that the driver is not responding to the situation.

While many luxury cars offer a 360 degree camera-based parking assistance, BMW will unveil its ‘Remote Control Parking’ feature in its latest 7 Series vehicle in India later this year. The car was launched in February 2016. The Remote Control Parking function allows you to hop out of the vehicle before parking it via remote control into a tight parking space or garage. You can activate the remote-controlled parking function from outside the vehicle through the BMW display key. This apart, the BMW X6 uplift available in India from mid-2015, for instance, offers the ‘Intelligent Emergency call system’ which gets activated if an accident sets off the airbags.

But few other safety/drive assist features such as blind spot assist, lane keeping assist, cruise control or even traffic jam assistance features offered in markets abroad, are yet to find full-fledged use here predominantly because of the radar-based detection systems that they use. Compared with laser-based systems which can be dodgy in adverse weather conditions, radar-based systems are generally more reliable. But for India, auto makers couldn’t equip cars with these, since the related frequency spectrums were reserved by the telecom department.

In mid -2015, the government took the first step towards encouraging luxury car makers to bring this technology to India by de-licensing some of the low frequency bands. If the government follows this up by de-licensing some more bands, the days of superior safety may be round the corner.

In all, if you can afford it, revel in the luxury, relax with the range of infotainment options on board and drive assured that the car will be your guardian angel in times of need.

Published on April 02, 2016

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