You've heard of a smart phone, but how about a smart car? There is a bit of a parallel along the evolution of the mobile phone and the modern vehicle. Both continue to do the same basic functions they were originally designed for. A smart phone still allows you to make phone calls while on the move and vehicles are still a quick, efficient method of transportation.
The qualifier, "smart", begins to apply when the object also begins to function as a computer. Our modern smart phones are basically hand-held computers. There is little that a desktop computer can do, these days, that a smart phone can't to some degree do. Some car companies have slowly been adding more and more smart features to vehicles.
Travel is in our blood. Many theories about human evolution rely on our nomadic instincts and explain how we have come to populate nearly every continent on Earth. Although the world today is very different from the wilderness our ancestors were driven to explore, travel remains a large part of the human experience. Most of us, at one point or another, long to see more of this massive planet we find ourselves on. Just about every family in the United States owns at least one vehicle. The extent to which we travel varies greatly. Some people are drawn to live stationary lives, while others seek out careers that allow them to live a modern nomadic life.
Adding features to cars is nothing new. Features are less important for people who spend little time in their cars, but most vehicles are designed and purchased with at least the potential of long distance travel in mind. As technology developed, wherever possible, it was added to improve the driver and passenger experience. Heating and air conditioning technology was added to cars so that weather didn't interfere with the traveler's comfort. The engine technology is continually improving to make driving easier and more intuitive. With the advancement of cruise control, drivers no longer needs to even press the gas pedal to keep rolling along the highway.
Every generation of new vehicle has the potential of the new technology available to it. A look back in the history of car designs show car phones, cassette and CD players, and even fax machines built into vehicles. It's not uncommon to find monitors on the backs of the driver and passenger's seats, designed to display DVDs and entertain family and friends on the road. All of these features are impressive, but didn't quite earn the term "smart".
GPS navigation became a popular feature over the past decade or so. A car with built-in GPS literally directs drivers to their destination. From this incredibly advanced technology, many more functions were discovered. Companies like OnStar developed programs that could detect if the driver was in a collision, saving countless lives by improving the emergency response time.
Over the years more and more features have been added to smart cars. GPS can be used to locate a vehicle after it's been stolen. With internet access, people can use their car's GPS to find local facilities like gas stations, hotels or restaurants. Drivers can also send texts to friends and even post to Facebook or Twitter while driving, by simply speaking to their dashboard.