by KYW’s Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – When you’re shopping for a car, you might look at the styling, the gas mileage, maybe how good it’ll be in the snow (if we ever get any).  Some other features don’t always grab the headlines, but they make all the difference when it comes to convenience and safety.

Carmakers are showing off some of that tech at the Philadelphia International Auto Show, which runs through February 5th at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Many drivers want to stay connected while on the road. For manufacturers, it’s a matter of keeping them safe while doing so. Dave Principato, the regional manager at Ford Motor Co., says “we’re trying to keep those hands on the wheel, using voice commands whenever possible.”

Sync, Ford’s in-dash infotainment system allows you text — if you must — without typing.

“It literally reads the text message back,” says Principato, “and you can even respond back with certain key, simple commands to reply to those messages.”

Hyundai and Cadillac had similar technology on display.

Distractions come in many forms on the road, but sometimes even the most attentive can’t avoid a crash.  Gary Cox, the local sales operations manager for Mercedes-Benz, says one of their options — called Pre-Safe — can cushion the blow.

“The car pre-estabilshes it to a crash mode,” he says, “so the head restraint system will actually move to a position to protect the head against whiplash or any sort of potential head trauma. The windows will go up.  The sunroof will close as well, and the seatbelt will tighten.”

Mercedes’ Attention Assist feature puts out an audio and visual alert when it senses changes in a driver’s steering, braking, and acceleration habits.

Some Volvo and Lexus models offer safety options including collision warning and avoidance.

And then there are convenience features.  Say you’re saddled with shopping bags, and don’t have a free hand.  In certain Ford models, Principato says, “you simply wave your leg under the rear bumper, and like magic, the lift gate goes up automatically for you.”

The trunk responds as long as you have your keys on you.


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