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Cars going even more high-tech in the future

Monday - 12/3/2012, 9:05am  ET

AP: 8a5f2bb6-6107-4da5-8e78-8b3eecb599a6
The Ford Focus Electric car is displayed next to a home charging station at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Max Smith, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - A decade or so ago, the most important features in a car for many people were horsepower and the number of seats, but now there are more high-tech things to consider, with even more in the testing stages.

Many of the cars featured at the L.A. Auto Show this week have high-tech components, either screens and more for drivers and passengers or advanced systems to get the most out of the engine and drivetrain.

Many car companies also are trying to connect cars to smartphones, either to let drivers control them through steering wheel buttons or voice controls.

If you're looking for some high-tech you can get for your car right now, you can start, lock or unlock your car right from your phone, even with your voice alone.

Several companies offer apps that provide the service once you buy a module to attach to your car's remote system. Viper's SmartStart App now lets drivers use the iPhone's Siri software to start, lock or unlock the car from inside the house, or farther away.

Other systems still in the testing phases promise even more advances.

Several companies are developing systems using cameras, radar or LIDAR or a combination to automatically hit the brakes in time to avoid potential collisions with other cars or pedestrians.

In Germany, there's even testing underway on cars that communicate with traffic signals, to help drivers get more miles per gallon.

The idea is to keep drivers from accelerating and then having to brake at the lights, so the system, which is working on test tracks, signals the car about the appropriate speed which will not only avoid unnecessary acceleration, but also have the car cruise through the intersection just as the light turns green.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)