Sponsored by Thatcham Research
Car of the Year Awards 2021: Technology Award
Our Technology Award celebrates innovation in all its forms, but this year we put a particular focus on technology which makes driving easier and safer...
Tesla over-the-air updates
If your phone or laptop can download updates wirelessly, why can’t your car? Well, if it’s a Tesla, it can. Tesla has been offering over-the-air updates since 2017, allowing new upgrades and features to be delivered to models wirelessly without owners having to visit a dealer.
No fewer than 15 safety upgrades have been made to the Model 3 executive car in 2020, while numerous comfort, convenience and entertainment features have been improved. These upgrades range from notifications that can tell you when you’ve left your car door unlocked, to the ability to set a PIN to keep the contents of your glovebox secure, but it’s the safety improvements that really caught the eyes of our judges.
These allow Tesla’s Autopilot system to slow the car down when you reach a roundabout, for example, or bring the car to a halt if it senses you’re about to go through a red light. Elsewhere, the Model 3 can now show you more road markings, so you’re more aware of your surroundings, and it provides more options to set a cruise control speed by simply tapping an icon on its giant infotainment screen. You can even allow Tesla to view footage from inside your car in the event of an accident. Its experts can analyse this and put their learnings back into developing new safety technology.
If you want some idea of how these incremental improvements add up, Thatcham Research, which conducts crash testing in the UK on behalf of Euro NCAP, tested the Model S luxury car’s safety assistance features back in 2014 and it failed to surpass those of rivals by some margin. Today, both the Model S and Model 3 are the benchmarks for those same tests. Indeed, the Model 3 scored 94% in the driver assistance category in 2019 – a full 14% more than the next best car.
2nd place - Polestar 2 Android Automotive OS voice control
Most modern cars come with touchscreen infotainment systems; What Car? tests have shown that these can be more distracting to use than physical controls such as dials.
The solution is natural speech voice control. Many cars include this, but the system offered as part of Android Automotive OS, as seen on the electric Polestar 2, stands out for accuracy. The built-in Google Assistant can do everything from sending a message via your phone to setting the temperature, all without your hands leaving the steering wheel.
3rd place - Volvo Advanced Interior Air Cleaner
Up to 90% of the world’s population is breathing polluted air, according to the World Health Organisation, so technology that protects your car’s occupants from hazardous particles is welcome.
Volvo’s Advanced Interior Air Cleaner is a world first. While rival systems use High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that rely on lots of super-fine fibres, Volvo’s uses an electrically charged filter that can remove up to 95% of the most harmful air particles before they enter your car.