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Electronics Make Driving Easier, Safer

New cars increasingly use connected technology, and incremental improvements in automotive electronics are making cars safer and smarter.

Some new models are flashy and others are fuel efficient, and embedded technology is at the heart of all of them.

The new Ford Escape has a radar-enabled adaptive cruise control to avoid collisions, with sensors on the front and side of the car. Ford's Mark Schirmer says the electronic system can be accessed through the dashboard or a smartphone.

“Where I am from, in Michigan, if it is a cold morning, I can have it start up right before I am scheduled to leave to go to the airport or go to work. You can find your car or if one of your family members, a kid, borrowed the car, it will show you exactly where it is," said Schirmer.

Third-party products now in development, like this emergency warning system, help drivers who fail to hear an approaching siren. A near-miss with an ambulance inspired the product from the Chicago start-up HAAS, co-founded by Cory Hohs.

“It scared me enough that I started looking for a product that would alert me when they are coming," said Hohs.

A sobriety detector from a Canadian company called Sober Steering is sold to companies with fleets of vehicles, such as buses. Chief Operating Officer Catherine Carroll says a sensor on the steering wheel can detect alcohol vapors emitted from the skin.

“If I am drinking and I have levels above a preset limit, it immobilizes the vehicle, so you can not move the vehicle that you are driving," said Carroll.

The system alerts the fleet manager that the vehicle and the driver have a problem.

One company founder says connected technology is changing our lives at home and on the highway. Ashot Avetisyan is the chief executive of MiaLinkup, which makes a third-party application that monitors and controls a vehicle..

“You can buy a washing machine, you can buy a microwave that has wifi and connects to a router. There are [connected] thermostats. There are lights," said Avetisyan.

And increasingly cars, for which connected technology has become as important as performance and styling.