Giving low-tech cars high-tech features

A new wave of aftermarket auto accessories allow owners to upgrade their cars with some of the latest safety systems

By Jim Gorzelany
CTW Features

Owners of older cars and those purchasing used models can now upgrade them with some of the latest high-tech vehicle safety systems at a surprisingly affordable cost, thanks to a growing array of advanced aftermarket auto accessories.

For example, Verizon’s hum lets motorists add an OnStar-like telematics system to most later-model cars and trucks; it plugs into a vehicle’s onboard diagnostic port (it’s easily accessed from beneath the dashboard) and works with a wireless Bluetooth device that attaches to the visor. Among other features, it can dispatch emergency services to the vehicle’s location via GPS if a crash is detected, and can be used to summon roadside assistance, provide vehicle diagnostics, and help locate the vehicle via a smartphone app if it’s stolen or otherwise misplaced in a crowded parking lot. Two-year subscription plans start at $14.99 a month and include the cost of the hum hardware (

Similarly, aftermarket accessory kits are available at auto accessory shops that allow motorists to install a backup camera and monitor to their current cars for easier and safer parking. Usually they work with a separate screen that affixes to the windshield or dashboard, but the $129 Rear View Safety GoVue lets a motorists use his or her mobile phone as the display. A wireless waterproof camera is affixed to the back of the vehicle and transmits a rearward image in real time via a short-range Wi-Fi network to either an iOS or Android smartphone that’s running a free downloadable app (

Going a step further, portable GPS maker Magellan recently unveiled its new RoadMate 7670T-LM DashCam Navigator that delivers a cutting-edge combination of features. It packs a GPS navigation system that features red light and speed-camera warnings, a 7-inch touchscreen display, and a 1080p high-definition DVR for real-time recording of one’s motoring adventures, epic fails and fender benders. It uses two wide angle video cameras, with one mounted at the front and the other at the rear of the vehicle, and the system can expand to include three added external cameras to afford a 360 degree view around the car’s exterior or allow separate two-channel (front and rear) video capture.

What’s more, the system and its embedded cameras enable the unit to further include two of the latest high-tech accident avoidance features, forward collision and lane departure warning systems. The former sounds an alert if the device deduces that the vehicle is closing in another car or other obstruction too quickly, while the latter warns the driver if the auto is inadvertently drifting across highway lane markers.

What’s more, the device can be used to document critical information in the event of a collision. It will instantly protect video files when a three-axis sensor detects a sudden change in motion, as would happen in a crash, and will automatically wake itself up and engage recording should an onboard G-shock sensor detect an impact to the vehicle while parked.

Pricing was not available as of this writing for the top-of-the-line version, but a more-basic model, the 6630T-LM that comes with a 5-inch display and only a single camera, is expected to retail for $179.99 when it debuts this spring. Magellan will also be unveiling a similar line of MiVue DashCam devices without the navigation systems, that will start at $109.99 and likewise hit store shelves and Internet retailers around mid-year (

© CTW Features

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