In-Car Technology Explained


Satellite Navigation

Satellite navigation is now used by more than half of UK's drivers!

There are three main types of sat nav;

1) Purpose built
2) Smart Phone
3) Factory fitted

Purpose built sat navs have been around for a long time now and most us have seen one or used one in a vehicle. Purpose built sat navs are still popular with many drivers who don't have a factory fitted sat nav and prefer a dedicated sat nav over using their smart phone.

Smart phones have quickly become a popular option for sat nav. Most drivers have a smart phone and use them in their cars already for music and taking calls via bluetooth. Smart phones have built in GPS and there are a variety of sat nav apps available for smart phones that make use of the built in GPS. You don't really need a purpose built or factory fitted sat nav system.

If your smart phone and in-car entertainment system both have MirrorLink capability, you'll be able to mirror compatible smart phone apps onto the cars display. This will allow you to use compatible smart phone sat nav apps for navigation such as; Apple Maps, Google Maps, Sygic.

Many new cars are now coming with built in sat nav as part of the in-car entertainment system. This is convenient as there's no need for a purpose built sat nav or having to use your smart phone app. However, we believe that the most practical way foward with sat nav is with MirrorLink or similar, as most of us already have sat nav in our pockets!

Using a satellite navigation system is currently not required or allowed during your practical driving test, unless you're taking part in the new driving test trial. If you are taking part in the new driving test trial, the DVSA will provide the sat nav for the practical driving test which is pre-programmed and the driving examiner will fit it to the windscreen. There will need to be a power socket for the driving examiner to plug the sat nav in, so if you have something plugged in, you'll need to unplug it or use an adapter so that there is a spare socket. You can't use your own sat nav system on the practical driving test!

Popular Sat Navs: Garmin, Navman, Snooper, TomTom


Smart Phones

Many modern vehicles have Bluetooth in which you can connect your smart phone. Bluetooth allows you to answer your phone hands-free, and in some cases can even be used to stream music. Many of these types of vehicle have buttons placed on the steering wheel or in-car entertainment system allowing you to answer a telephone call without holding your smart phone.

If your vehicle does not have Bluetooth factory fitted, you can use a Bluetooth earpiece to answer calls hands-free. This method also offers some privacy too, as others occupants of the vehicle cannot hear your whole conversation.

It can be very tempting to check your smart phone when you see a notification light blinking or respond to a text message, but this will require taking your attention and eyes off the road which could result in damage, injury or death.

Learning how to voice control your smart phone can be very useful for when driving. You can answer your phone, end a call, read out text messages and send text messages without touching your smart phone and without taking your eyes of the road longer than necessary.

If caught using a mobile phone whilst driving, you'll get a fixed penalty of 6 points on your driving licence and a £200 fine. If you go to court, you could be disqualified from driving and get fined up to £1000. If you've passed your practical driving test in the last 2 years, you will lose your driving licence and have to resit your practical driving test.

As already mentioned above in the sat nav section. Smart phones can be used as a very useful satellite navigation system. This can often be done for free using an app such as Google Maps on Android or Apple Maps on iPhone. You can also pay for an app such as TomTom as an alternative to purchasing a purpose built TomTom satellite navigation system.

Although as road safety advocates we don't condone speed camera and traffic light apps, will feel that we should give them a mention as they are available. The reason that we do not condone these type of apps is because we believe that they give you a false sense of safety and security against penalties, and therefore encourages unsafe driving and breaking the law!

Popular Apps: Apple Maps, CamSam, CoPilot, Google Maps, Live Traffic Info, MapFactor, Sygic, Vehicle Smart, Waze

Using mobile phones when driving: the law


In-Car Entertainment

In-Car Audio

Old cars will most likely have a Tape/Radio type car stereo, whilst more modern cars will have a CD/Radio or MP3-CD/Radio.

Some of the latest car stereos have an auxiliary input allowing you to use an MP3 player or smart phone and some will even have bluetooth allowing you to stream music from your device via the car stereo.

DAB is now replacing analogue radio in car stereo systems and satellite navigation can often be factory fitted or you can purchase a car stereo system with built satellite navigation.

Some people choose to install additional equipment such as a multi CD changer, although these are sometimes factory fitted. A Bass Tube or Subwoofer can be installed to enchance low frequencies for music genres such as; Dubstep, DnB/D&B, Jungle, Reggae, RnB/R&B. An amplifier can be installed to increase sound levels to beyond that of a standard car stereo system. Sometimes the factory fitted speakers are replaced with higher quality ones that can handle loader music and produce better quality sound.

If your smart phone and in-car entertainment system both have MirrorLink capability, you'll be able to mirror compatible smart phones apps onto the cars display. This will allow you to use compatible smart phone audio apps such as; Deezer, iHeartRadio, Spotify.

In-Car Video

In-car TV/DVD players can be built in with the car audio system or they can be independently mounted. The most common type is mounted on the rear of the front seat head restraints and are often used for entertaining children whilst on long journeys.

Modern in-car TV/DVD players can have Wi-Fi, 3G/4G and Bluetooth connectivity. Some have a SD Memory Card slot and/or a USB port for storage of video files, allowing video streaming and video playback from storage.

An alternative to using an in-car TV/DVD player, is to use a tablet PC or smart phone if DVD playback is not required. Tablet PC's and smart phones can store and stream video and audio, and the users can plug in headphones meaning that they each have their own entertainment without distracting the driver. Tablet PC's and smart phones can also offer other entertainment uses for passengers whilst on long journeys. Because most people including children have tablet PC's and smart phones nowadays, this has become the most popular option for passenger in-car entertainment.

Popular Brands: Alpine, Blaupunkt, Boss, Clarion, Edge, FLI, In Phase, JBL, JVC, Kenwood, Kicker, Nextbase, Pioneer, Pure, Sony, Vibe, Zenec

NOTE: It is illegal to watch video whilst driving!


Vehicle Security Systems

Most modern vehicles now come with a factory fitted alarm system & immobiliser to deter and protect vehicles from theft.

There is a vast array of vehicle security systems available and many people don't have a clue what is what. An institution called Thatcham Research has categorized the different types of vehicle security system making it easier for people to identify what is factory fitted and what is available as an upgrade.

What is a Thatcham Category alarm system?

Thatcham Category 1 – electronic alarm and immobiliser
Thatcham Category 2 – electronic immobiliser
Thatcham Category 2/1 – electronic alarm upgrade
Thatcham Category 3 – mechanical immobiliser
Thatcham Category 4 – wheel locking devices
Thatcham Category 5 – post-theft tracking and recovery systems
Thatcham Category 6 – stolen vehicle tracking
Thatcham Category 7 – stolen vehicle location
Q class systems – non-categorised aftermarket systems

Vehicle Immobiliser

All vehicles made since 1998 come with a factory fitted immobiliser. An immobiliser is an electronic security device fitted to a vehicle that prevents the engine from starting unless the correct key is present. When you put a key in the ignition, a code is sent from the microchip in the key to the cars electronic control unit. If this code is a match, the components required to start the engine are electronically enabled and the engine will start, but if it doesn't match or is not present, the engine is immobilised by electronically disabling the components needed to start the engine. A vehicle immobiliser makes it extremely difficult to hot-wire a vehicle.

Due to vehicle immobilisers, there has been an increase in carjacking or key thefts over the last couple of decades, this is because vehicle thieves now need the key in order to steal the vehicle.

Vehicle Tracking

Vehicle tracking is popular with fleet management companies such as; haulage, courier, taxi and security companies as it allows the company to know where their vehicles are and their ETA.

Vehicle tracking is not just limited to fleet management companies and is also used to track other vehicles too, such as; Cars, Motorcycles, Tractors, Diggers, Dumpers etc. This allows the owner and/or police to locate the stolen vehicle in the event of theft.

Some new vehicles come with factory fitted GPS or GLONASS vehicle tracking. If your vehicle does not come with factory fitted GPS or GLONASS vehicle tracking, you can purchase an aftermarket GPS or GLONASS vehicle tracker reasonably cheap online and fit it yourself, or purchase an aftermarket GPS or GLONASS vehicle tracking system and get it professionally fitted.

NOTE: Some professionally fitted GPS or GLONASS vehicle tracking systems come with a subscription charge for accessing your data. Subscription is normally for fleet management, rather than for tracking the theft of a vehicle. There are many vehicle tracking companies that will supply, fit and maintain vehicle tracking systems. These companies normally provide the fleet management software too as part of a subscription!

Dashboard Camera Systems

More and more people are fitting dashcams in their vehicles for insurance purposes. Some insurance companies offer 10-15% discount for dashcams, as they can provide vital video evidence of a collision and even location if the dashcam has GPS. It's like having a credible witness with you at all times whilst driving!

The placement of a dashcam is very important as you may break the law if incorrectly positioned on the windscreen. No part of the camera, cradle, suction cups and any wires can encroach more than 4cm into the secondary zone, which comprises the pink area, which is the movement arc of the wiper. Furthermore, the law allows for only 1cm of intrusion into the red zone, which represents the primary area of a driver’s view. Failing to put the dashcam outside of this area could result in a charge of careless or even dangerous driving in Scotland. Also, law says that the dashcam screen should not be switch on if the driver can see it in any way.

The best place for a dashcam is just to the left of the rear view mirror, as this is outside the the area described and still reachble from the drivers seat should you wish to remove it!

Using a dashcam during a driving test is not permitted unless it is for insurance purposes, outward facing and no audio is being recorded. If the examiner thinks the test is being recorded without permission or you have not complied with the allowed rules, you will asked to switch off or remove the dashcam. Failing to switch off or remove the dashcam promptly when asked, will result in the driving test being cancelled and loss of your driving test fee!

Popular Brands: Blackvue, Garmin, Lukas, Mio, Mi-Witness, Nextbase, RAC, Road Angel, Road Hawk, Snooper, Thinkware, Transcend, VicoVation

Stickers or other items in front and rear windscreens
Filming or recording driving tests

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