Facial scans, ‘air scarves’ among shiny new car tech

SUMMIT POINT, W.Va. — Facial recognition, better semiautonomous features and some simple comfort items are some of the latest tech standouts in the car market.

The facial recognition technology is coming to the 2019 Subaru Forester. Up to five users can each have the car return them to their preferred seat and mirror settings by having the car “read” their faces. The system also monitors drivers to make sure they’re keeping their eyes on the road, said Subaru’s Jessica Tullman. The feature will be standard on the Forester’s Touring trim level.

Of course, systems for semiautonomous driving are taking steps forward, through advances such as better road mapping and communication between cars.

This year, Mercedes-Benz launched “Car-to-X communication,” which lets its vehicles exchange information on things such as road hazards and traffic. Mercedes’ Lindsay Munson said the system could one day expand to incorporate multiple manufacturers. Better road mapping means cars can anticipate things such as the exact curve of an exit ramp, she said.

The current semiautonomous driving systems are known as Level 2 automated driving. They require a driver’s hand on the wheel, but the cars can be made to change lanes and even overtake vehicles on their own.

“Level 2 is kind of the where we are at the max or the ceiling we are today. Level 3 is coming, down the road maybe a year or less,” said Alvin Bond of Maserati. “It would be hands off the steering wheel; the car is doing most of the functions for you.”

Not all the tech is so high-stakes. Some good old fashioned bells and whistles are out there, such as the “air scarf” in Mercedes convertibles, which uses fans in the headrest that blow “a scarf of warm air around your neck as you’re driving,” Munson said.

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