8 New Technologies That Can Turn a Drive Into an Experience

Updated on Feb 22, 2024

For most, routine commutes and long drives are less-than-enjoyable, resulting in ocular fatigue, sore muscles, and extensive boredom. If the journey isn’t shrouded in beautiful landscapes or excited by a heavily modified ride, the goal is likely the destination rather than your time behind the wheel. 

Fortunately, recent years have resulted in several technological developments, transforming even the most mundane drives into utter experiences! And the best part? No one needs to miss out on the fun! Several technologies can be retrofitted to aging vehicles and base-model trims, ensuring every driver gets a taste of modern luxury. 

In this guide, we cover eight of the most exciting and noteworthy automotive technologies, bolstering overall comfort and entertainment on the road. Read on to transform your everyday commute!

Upgraded Speakers and Audio Equipment

Several new technologies have graced the automobile in recent years, ranging from air conditioning to cruise control. Though these developments are nothing short of impressive, arguably the most indispensable upgrade is the mobile audio system; can you imagine a drive without tunes? 

What originated as cheap, mid-range paper-cone speakers and AM radios has blossomed into precision-tuned, multi-speaker audio systems that wirelessly stream content from cell phones–big jump, right? Most modern vehicles offer impressive infotainment systems with massive displays connected to booming speaker systems, resulting in crisp, clear, and powerful audio quality. However, these systems often come on high-trim levels and at considerable price tags, leading consumers to opt for less-expensive and less impressive audio systems. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to settle for your vehicle’s factory speakers and head unit! The mobile audio industry is constantly adapting to keep up with OEM manufacturers, offering high-end, plug-and-play car stereos, speakers, subwoofers, and amplifiers. These aftermarket systems are fully capable of rivaling, or even outperforming, high-end OE systems. 

We recommend shopping audio-exclusive retailers for compatible speakers, head units, and plug-and-play harnesses, ensuring straightforward installations without extensive modifications to wirings or mounting points. 

If you’re considering upgrading your vehicle’s existing audio system, prices significantly vary, though expect to spend anywhere between $500–$1500 on parts and installation.

Voice Controlled Entertainment Systems

While enhancements in audio and entertainment systems have brought several benefits to automobiles, they’ve also introduced several driver distractions. A quick lapse in attention while flipping through touch-screen displays could quickly result in an accident, requiring automotive manufacturers to develop further technological advancements for safety. Queue the hands-free, voice-controlled entertainment system. 

Voice-controlled entertainment systems allow drivers to switch through songs, play audio, and conduct several other actions without ever shifting their eyes from the road or hands from the wheel, significantly improving safety. This tech also includes hands-free phone calling, further limiting unnecessary distractions. 

If your vehicle lacks modern voice-controlled tech, consider upgrading the infotainment system with an aftermarket head unit featuring an auxiliary microphone and full voice integration. These systems allow you to control audio playback, phone calls, and other features with simple voice commands. 

Voice-integrated aftermarket infotainment systems vary in price, though expect to spend anywhere from $250–$1,000 on the head unit alone. Installation kits and labor will likely run another $100–$200.

Storage Solutions

Though vehicle storage systems may seem to have existed since the dawn of the automobile, that’s not necessarily the case. Original autos had one primary purpose: transporting people. As vehicles grew in size and complexity, automakers provided trunks, storage compartments, cupholders, and other solutions. 

In recent years, storage systems have grown more intuitive and creative, including stowable seating, hidden compartments, and foldable rear seats in pickups. Still, some of the most significant advancements don’t stem from automakers but the automotive aftermarket!

At RealTruck, we offer a wide selection of consoles and organizers, keeping your valuables safe, organized, and out of sight. Products like Husky Liners GearBox Storage Boxes and WeatherTech Under Seat Storage Systems provide tidy, hidden storage beneath second-row seating, while Covercraft Seatback Organizers perfect the manufacturer-provided concept of map pockets! For additional organization resources, check out the following articles on RealSource! 

High-End Covers and Liners

So, what about protection? Several manufacturers have begun offering factory-installed protection products in recent years. While many modern vehicles ship with these protection products, like OE floor liners and bed liners, these features are often reserved for pricier, higher-spec trim levels. Also, factory liners and covers often lack the robust durability and protection of their aftermarket counterparts. 

High-end covers and liners serve several purposes aboard a vehicle, namely protection. Bed liners guard a pickup’s bed against scratches and dings while transporting cargo, while floor mats and seat covers guard a pickup’s interior against stains and wear while transporting passengers. 

So, how do these components improve your time on the road? By reducing stress! Vehicle protection is essential for a stress-free road trip. If you or a passenger track in mud or spill a beverage, you can rest assured knowing your vehicle’s upholstery and carpet are protected. The same goes for the bed and cargo area, as transporting abrasive and heavy cargo with a premium bed liner or mat prevents unnecessary dings, scratches, and damage. 

We offer several high-end covers and liners on RealTruck, varying in price by brand, location, and material. Expect to spend anywhere from $200–$400 on seat covers, $50–$70 on floor liners, and approximately $200–$400 on full bed liners ($100–$250 on bed mats).    

For additional cover and liner resources, check out the following articles on RealSource!

Ambient LED Lighting

In recent years, auto manufacturers have placed significant importance on overall aesthetics. Sleek body lines and premium alloy accents denote a sense of luxury and quality, though nothing sets the tone like a luxurious interior!

Most manufacturers follow similar formulas for luxurious interiors, including premium Nappa leather upholstery, wood grain accents, and extensive tech, like a full range of ambient LED lighting. With the press of a button, cycle through vibrant LED modes and colors, illuminating a vehicle’s footwells, door handles, and even cupholders, enveloping passengers in a warm, peaceful atmosphere. 

Unfortunately, ambient LED lighting is typically reserved for high-end trims. Thankfully, the automotive aftermarket comes through again with a wide range of LED lighting options! At RealTruck, we offer a wide selection of LED interior lighting, allowing drivers to retrofit color-changing, dimmable LED accents to any vehicle, regardless of age or trim level! 

Products like the Rugged Ridge LED Interior Lighting System, ORACLE ColorSHIFT Hardtop Headliner, and Oracle Fiber Optic LED Interior replicate the ambient light experience found on high-end autos, making for an enjoyable night-time driving experience.

Advanced GPS Navigation

Imagine a time before smartphones, before every individual held the power of a computer in their hands. Now, imagine driving through an unfamiliar area without the confidence of your phone's digital navigation software, with nothing but a paper map in the glove box. 

Alright, with that horror story over, let’s move to our next technological development: GPS navigation! Nothing instills confidence like the Global Positioning System–a collection of 24 satellites that continuously orbit the Earth, relaying your precise location (accurate by as little as .98 inches) at the push of a button. The technology quickly gained popularity once the Department of Defense opened GPS to civilians. Within a decade or two, GPS-powered automotive navigation systems around the world. 

Though GPS is now viewed as ordinary tech, many vehicles still ship without advanced GPS technology, forcing drivers to rely on cell phones for navigation. Though effective, this technology is far more intuitive when integrated directly into your vehicle’s infotainment system! GPS comes as standalone units or integrated into aftermarket head units. While both function similarly, aftermarket GPS-compatible head units offer more features, though at premium price points between $1,000–$1,500!

Heads-Up Displays

Though your vehicle’s gauge cluster lies right before your eyes, glancing at the gauges and alerts still requires drivers to shift their attention away from the road momentarily. Unfortunately, it only takes a split attention lapse to cause or fall victim to an accident. 

For this reason, auto manufacturers have developed heads-up displays, or HUD, which cast essential information directly into the driver’s field of vision! These systems utilize dashboard-mounted projectors that, when bounced between several mirrors, refractors, and magnifying lenses, cast a clear image directly onto the windshield. 

As one would expect, this tech is reserved for only the highest trim levels of luxury autos, making it unattainable to most drivers. Fortunately, several aftermarket manufacturers produce universal HUD systems, often utilizing transparent displays or off-center screens. While not as futuristic as genuine HUDs, these aftermarket options offer similar features for a fraction of the price. 

Most universal HUD systems cost between $50–$250, depending on the system’s size, complexity, and features.

Massage Functions

As we age, long drives aren’t nearly as enjoyable as they once were. Youthful excitement gives way to stiff necks, back pain, and overall fatigue, so what’s the solution? 

Some models' higher-spec trim levels don’t just feature full power adjustments and heated upholstery but integrated massage functionality! With the press of a button, shift through massage functions to loosen up tight muscles and melt away back pain. Unfortunately, these features are left to the elites, as even well-equipped vehicles lack massage functions. 

If you’re interested in an in-car Shiatsu without spending an arm and a leg for a fully-loaded Ford F-250 Limited, consider installing an aftermarket heated seat massager, which typically straps to your vehicle’s seat back and receives power from a conventional 12V power socket. 

Aftermarket seat massagers start around $25, making them affordable to nearly any driver...just don’t get too relaxed behind the wheel!

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