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Our homes are tricked out with the latest technology, as are our offices and even our pockets and purses. So, why aren't our vehicles?

Actually, it's not a question of it happening "down the road." A lot of the tech is available now.

Auto manufacturers are doubling down on ways to make your commute safer, entertaining, more connected and better on the environment.

The following is a look at a few examples of the latest in emerging automotive tech.

Semi-autonomous, autonomous cars

Given the fact human error accounts for more than 90% of road accidents, perhaps we ought to rely more on our vehicles to help keep us safe?

That's the idea behind "autonomous" cars. Also referred to as "driverless cars" these vehicles are capable of sensing their environment and navigating without any human input. "There's still a lot of work ahead, but along with many tech giants (like Google), all the major automotive companies are working on this, because it's the future," confirms John O'Dell, a senior editor at Edmunds.com, a popular online resource for automotive information. "Many Baby Boomers, for example, have the money and desire for this kind of this technology."

O'Dell, who specializes in technologies and environmental trends in the automotive world, says society has to catch up with the technology. "Whether we're talking price, legislation or liability — for instance, what insurance policies will look like and who will be responsible if something goes wrong — we're still a few years out from fully autonomous vehicles."

In the meantime, "semi-autonomous" technology is becoming more popular. As the name suggests, the vehicle assists the driver rather than takes complete control.

One such example is adaptive cruise control, where cars — embedded with cameras, radar, sonar and infrared sensors — slow down if getting too close to another vehicle or pedestrian. O'Dell says a similar technology called Traffic Jam Assist allows some Mercedes Benz S-Class vehicles to safely follow the car in front of it up to 37 mph — via stereo cameras mounted above the rearview mirror.

Many vehicles today can beep if an object is detected in your blind spot, vibrate the steering wheel if you're drifting into another lane without signaling or even parallel-park your car for you with the push of a button.

At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Audi demonstrated emergency technology that detects when a driver isn't responding, perhaps if passed out, and the car will slow down, move off to the shoulder, put it into park and call 911.

Alternative fuel

While gasoline-powered vehicles still dominate the road, times are a changing.

Hybrid gas/electric and all-electric cars are widely accepted now, plus diesel is popular in some markets for its relative low cost and high fuel efficiency. Natural-gas-powered cars are even more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly.

While electric car owners never have to visit a gas station, some feel "range anxiety" — the fear of running out of electricity without anywhere nearby to top up — but companies such as Tesla are tackling this issue head on. More than 100 "Superchargers" are now spread across North America, allowing Model S owners to power up their vehicle for free — and in a fraction of the time than most other cars.

"These Superchargers give the Tesla owner, or prospective owner, a greater sense of comfort being out and about in the car," adds O'Dell. "Instead of waiting six hours to top up, I can get an 80% charge in about 20 minutes, which is enough time to grab a coffee and a doughnut." O'Dell says the biggest Tesla battery currently yields roughly 265 miles on a single charge — an industry-leading distance, he adds. There are rapid chargers for non-Tesla electric vehicles in some regions, too.

Ford unveiled a solar-powered electric car concept at CES this past January. This modified version of the existing C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid had solar cells on the roof of the vehicle (and an optional photovoltaic panel-lined canopy for a driveway), which powers the electric motor for up to 21 miles — before the gas engine kicks in. No word yet on a launch date or price.

And what about automated battery-switching stations, like what venture-backed A Better Place attempted? It was arguably ahead of its time, as the company filed for bankruptcy last year. "To make this work smoothly, however, every automaker would need a uniform system, with batteries that were roughly the same size and shape, which isn't very likely to happen," says O'Dell.

"Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles will probably be the Next Big Thing," predicts O'Dell. "Instead of large, heavy and slow-to-charge chemical batteries ... which are limited in energy and require you to stop and recharge, a fuel-cell car is like an electro-chemical generating factory that pulls electrons out of hydrogen to produce electricity," O'Dell explains. It's a small tank that powers a vehicle more than 300 miles and can be refilled in just three to five minutes.

Smarter voice control

Instead of using your hands to adjust controls in the vehicle — which could mean eyes off the road — many automakers are adopting various voice-driven interfaces, sometimes with the assistance of a smartphone rather than relying on proprietary in-car tech like Sync from Ford and Microsoft.

For example, you'll need an iPhone to use Apple's CarPlay ("Siri for the car"), which allows you to use your voice to make calls, hear text messages, access Apple Maps (not Google Maps) and play music.

Initial partners will include Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Volvo and Ferrari.

Some apps are CarPlay-certified, while others might be accessible through Siri Eyes Free, which already exists in some vehicles, and lets you use your voice to perform a task or ask for information.

Similarly, Google Android Auto is coming soon. Connect your Android smartphone to access all of your contacts, messages, music and other info — while keeping your eyes on the road.

Apps, connectivity

An app tied to Hyundai's 2015 Genesis sedan can aggregate info from your calendar, traffic and weather, and send you texts on when you should leave to make an appointment on time, what route to take and when to remote start your car to warm up. Already used by many Android users, Google Now powers much of this Hyundai app.

As previewed at CES 2014, Hyundai also showed a Google Glass companion app, allowing you to remote start the vehicle, lock and unlock doors, find directions to the car and more.

Features like this are becoming commonplace.

Owners of electric and hybrid cars can now access information on an app, such as monitoring the electric charge, pre-warming cars on cold mornings, scheduling electric charges on off-peak hours and adjusting the temperature inside the vehicle.

Many cars today are also shipping with a "Wi-Fi hotspot" feature. With an integrated 4G/LTE SIM card, passengers can access the Internet on their mobile devices — such as smartphones, tablets and laptops — or in some cases, on the car's dashboard itself.

Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman.

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