The Smart brand has taken a turn for the worse since it sold its first 25,000 copies of its all-electric Fortwo model back in 2008. Since then, Smart dropped its gasoline-powered vehicle from its lineup in 2017, and sales of Smart cars started sharply declining in the U.S.
Finally, in 2019, the company announced it would stop importing its Fortwo model to North America and would be exiting the U.S. market.
Fortunately, the brand is planning to bounce back. Despite its ongoing struggles to sell its models to American drivers, Smart is partnering with automakers Geely and Daimler to produce the larger crossover SUV Countryman.
But Americans who purchased a Smart car in the brand’s heyday are still reaping its benefits. Smart car costs, including insurance, are considerably cheaper than those of other vehicles, and the high-tech nature of Smart’s models still piques American curiosity.
For instance, you can insure a 2017 Fortwo model for as low as $680 a year. Gas-powered Smart cars are even more affordable to insure. Smart hasn’t announced new plans for the U.S. market just yet, but with its current reinvention underway, that could certainly change.
What’s more is that, despite a lack of newer Smart models, American drivers can still purchase a used Smart car model from existing owners looking to sell.
Add to that the fact that there is competition coming into play since other automakers (such as Toyota and General Motors) are breaking into the “smart” (or “connected”) car market with their own cutting-edge technologies, and Americans are clearly not over the “smart car fad.”
#1 – Level 2 Vehicle Autonomy
Smart plans to incorporate Level 2 vehicle autonomy in its new Countryman model. Toyota, Tesla, and General Motors have already or are currently incorporating higher levels of semi-autonomous driving into their models as well.
For instance, Toyota has incorporated Level 2 vehicle autonomy in its Mirai and Lexus LS models (the latter of which will be available in the U.S.).
Level 2 vehicle autonomy means that the vehicle only needs partial driver assistance to operate. In other words, it’s capable of accelerating, decelerating, and steering on its own, but doesn’t quite qualify as “fully autonomous” because the driver can still take control of the vehicle at any time.
There are six different levels of vehicle autonomy, with Level 5 being the highest and Level 0 the lowest.
In 2017, Smart released a concept vehicle called Smart Vision EQ Fortwo that featured Level 5 vehicle autonomy. The car is completely absent of conventional pedals and a steering wheel and aims to illustrate what the future of autonomous driving could look like. Fully autonomous cars are not street legal yet, but the technology is moving in that direction.
#2 – Popular App Integrations & Digital Interfaces
Perhaps not as surprising and “cutting-edge” as other technologies, both “smart” cars and Smart cars feature popular app integrations that replace more traditional components of the everyday gasoline-powered cars we’re used to.
Traditional GPS systems have been replaced by apps like Waze and Google Maps. Traditional and satellite radio are replaced by built-in “infotainment” systems that connect with popular streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music.
These new multimedia systems are entirely digital. Users can use them in the same ways they use their smartphones — by swiping and tapping. Drivers of these cars can also expect advanced IoT (Internet of Things) solution integration that streamlines specific driving situations, like traffic jams, with Level 1 vehicle autonomy.
#3 – Intelligent Communication Technology
Vehicle communication technology refers to the car’s ability to intelligently detect and make decisions about its surrounding environments. This technology and variants of it are available in both “smart” cars and vehicles designed by the Smart car company.
The different types of vehicle communication technology include:
- Vehicle-to-vehicle communication: Technology that offers line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight collision avoidance systems that contribute to a safer driving experience.
- Vehicle-to-infrastructure communication: Technology that allows the connected car to sense and communicate with surrounding applications about traffic conditions and travel information.
- Vehicle-to-pedestrian communication: Technology that allows the vehicle to sense and alert its driver to surrounding pedestrians in blind spots and other sectors of vision.
- Vehicle-to-cloud communication: Technology that allows the car to communicate with the “cloud” and download updated information relevant to its functionality.
Smart cars made by the Smart car company also feature keyless access and vehicle monitoring systems that allow the driver to secure and keep tabs on their Smart car.
For example, with a smartwatch or smartphone, the driver can download an app and use it to monitor their vehicle’s charge, how far away they are from their parked vehicle, and their vehicle’s overall status.
As technology advances increase all over various industries, you can count on other similar features in future Smart vehicles.
Luke Williams writes and researches for the car insurance comparison site, CarInsurance101.com. He enjoys writing about ways that car technology can help people save money and drive with peace of mind.