Friday, Nov. 3, 2017 | 2 a.m.
The annual gathering of automobile customization enthusiasts rolled into Las Vegas this week, with all types of products for those who want to upgrade their rides.
Automobile body wraps that allow a unique look and various engine components to improve performance were among 2,500 new products displayed at SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Of the products being showcased, technology-based items offer some of the most useful driving enhancements. Here are five products utilizing the latest technology that stood out:
Thinkware — Dashcam Pro F800 ($299)
Teens and seniors behind the wheel can be nerve-wracking for family members, so Thinkware developed a program that uses its Pro F800 camera to track such drivers.
The cloud-based system, which runs off a smartphone app, is connected by a Wi-Fi hot spot. It can set up a virtual perimeter via geomapping and send alerts if the driver travels outside the area.
“In that case the parents can call their child and let them know they are out of their approved area,” said Brian Yang, business department director for Thinkware.
The function for elderly drivers is called the driver-impact notification system and sends an alert when a driver is in a crash.
“If a bad moment happens, an impact notification is sent to a user's phone,” Yang said. “Then I can call my grandmother and ask what happened. If they don’t answer, you can call emergency personnel and relay their location.”
The camera feed can also be accessed in real time, viewing the stream via the app, and videos are downloadable as well.
The product will be available later this month.
Powerall — Mobile jump-starter ($89-$249)
Just slightly bigger than an average portable cellphone charger, the Powerall jump-starter power bank can jump a vehicle's dead battery without the use of another vehicle’s battery.
The power bank, which comes in three sizes and fully charge in less than three hours, can jump-start a car up to eight times on a single charge of its rechargeable lithium battery.
“With cables you have to wait around for somebody with another car. With Powerall, you can just do it yourself,” said Max Rubalcava, Powerall national sales manager. “Someone that doesn't have any type of experience with mechanics can use this because it is really easy.”
The largest unit is powerful enough to charge a 5.0-liter engine. A water-resistant model is available for boating and off-roading.
Two additional USB ports can charge phones and other electronics. An LED flashlight also on the unit can be set to an flashing mode for emergency assistance.
Voxx — Rear Seat Entertainment System (from $149)
Voxx newest Android embedded console is a pad-like device that is mountable to the headrest of a car that doesn't run the risk of running out of a charge like a conventional tablet.
The ability to have the console mounted in a car seat or overhead also provides an added convenience and safety aspect.
“You have a kid who’s 6 or 7 years old, they’re holding a tablet in their hand and God forbid you get in an accident. That device becomes a projectile,” said Airon Ayala, Western regional manager for Voxx. “These systems are all certified by the National Transportation Safety Board and are all crash-tested.
“Depending on how long the trip is, a kid doesn't want to be holding a tablet for several hours,” Ayala said.
Users can stream entertainment via Netflix, Hulu and other popular services, in addition to playing games and movies. There services are offered via the use of Amazon Fire Sticks or Google Chromecast streaming devices.
The system requires a Wi-Fi hot spot either on a cellpone or in the vehicle.
Gentex Mirror Born Iris-Scan (Pricing Unavailable)
With iris-scan technology becoming more popular with smartphones, Gentex sees the advancement as the next big thing in vehicles.
The Mirror Born Iris-Scan reads an operator's eyes and allows only drivers who are scanned into the system and approved to operate the vehicle. The scanning can take place through the rear-view mirror, or the mobile app, which will then download it into the system.
“Once it recognizes the driver, you can customize the car add make it do want you want it to do,” said Craig Piersma, director of marketing for Gentex Corp..
A setting will allow non-approved drivers, valet parkers or auto shop workers, limited use of the vehicle. They can only go a certain speed or distance before alerting the vehicle's owner.