At every auto show, car companies trip over one another to tout the latest tech wizardry debuting in the machine of the moment. It's hard to parse the game-changing innovations from the sea of tricks, misfires, and half-baked duds. Over the years, I've seen great ideas that don't stick (four-wheel steering), good ideas poorly executed (BMW's original iDrive system), and gimmicks that never live up to their promise (voice-control systems, all of which seem to require fluency in some obscure Klingon dialect). But once in a while, there's the rare golden idea, like the intermittent windshield wiper or the stability-control system, that quickly proves to be indispensable and becomes standard issue. A little more than 10 years ago, the Lexus RX 300 wore a "VSC" badge to brag about its stability-control system. By 2012, every car sold in America had one. The question is, which of the new cars are rolling out the next must-have feature, and which ones are peddling the 2012 equivalent of Subaru's hidden center headlight from the eighties? I've identified five current tech features that are offbeat but should be ubiquitous a decade from now. And if they're not, feel free to key my flying Honda. Launch Gallery >>
The idea behind torque vectoring is to spin the outside tire slightly faster through a corner to point the car into a turn. Traditionally, this was accomplished with a complicated mechanical differential, which is what's used in the BMW X6, the Ferrari 458, and Acuras equipped with Super Handling AWD. While torque vectoring is awesome and results in physics-defying handling, it's still relegated mostly to pricey luxury cars. That's changing, thanks to a simple formula tweak: Instead of speeding up the outside wheel, it now slows down the inside wheel. And that doesn't require anything fancier than brakes and software. Voila! Torque vectoring is cheap enough to show up in the 2013 Nissan Altima, where it's called Active Understeer Control. What once required genius mechanical engineering is now handled by a few lines of code.
Credit: Courtesy Nissan