CNET announces nominees for 2012 Tech Car of the Year

As 2012 rolls to a close, we look back at the cars we've reviewed over the last year to see which rise to the level of Tech Car of the Year. Numerous feasible electric cars launched this year, and two made our nominees list. Audi and BMW continued their slugfest in cabin, driver assistance, and performance tech, and we picked representative sample models from each. Also slipping in is the new Toyota Prius C hatchback, showing off Toyota's venerable hybrid drivetrain and its latest app integration.

Please let us know which car you think should be the 2012 Tech Car of the Year in our poll, and discuss it in the comments. Our CNET jury will place their votes, and we will announce the winner on December 19. … Read more

Take control of your car's tech with these six apps

OK, so you you can't remotely drive a BMW with a phone like James Bond does in "Tomorrow Never Dies," but there are plenty of real apps that will let you take control of your car and its tech with little more than your smartphone and a data connection. From beaming destinations to your Toyota's navigation system with Entune to remotely unlocking your doors with GM's OnStar RemoteLink, we've rounded up a few of the best car-controlling apps. … Read more

Tech car buying guide

When shopping for a new car, the old questions remain relevant. Does it have enough seats for my family and friends? Are the seats comfortable? Will it suit all the uses for which I need it? Does it get good fuel economy? Is it safe?

However, there are many new tech features available that can make your drives more comfortable, keep you out of traffic jams, and prevent accidents. In addition, there are different drivetrain options that can save you a lot of money, depending on your lifestyle.

In this guide, we will let you know what features you can … Read more

Dodge, Ford, Mazda, and Toyota nominated for Green Car award

Each year, Green Car Journal names its Green Car of the Year at the Los Angeles Auto Show. For the upcoming award, the field has narrowed down to five contenders, each using technology to achieve high fuel economy.

Here are this year's nominees:

Dodge Dart Aero Ford C-MAX Ford Fusion Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv Toyota Prius C

The Aero version of the new Dodge Dart uses aerodynamic components, low rolling resistance tires, and a grille shutter to get 41 mpg highway from its turbocharged 1.4-liter engine. However, its combined city/highway fuel economy is only 32 mpg.

Ford gains … Read more

Could a see-through Toyota Prius prevent accidents?

Even if you have a dashboard display showing what's behind your car when you back up, it's hard to be 100 percent sure you won't hit something. Or someone. That's why researchers at Japan's Keio University are working on a system that makes the back seat invisible, so to speak.

From the driver's perspective, the back of a car, in this case a Prius, is transparent, thus eliminating blind spots that could conceal hazards. The system is called the "see-through Prius" and it's being showcased this month at the 2012 Digital Content Expo in Tokyo. … Read more

Five hybrid cars: The newest gas-electric fuel-sippers

Hybrid drive systems in modern cars store what would otherwise be wasted kinetic energy from braking, making it available to supplement the work of the gasoline engine. These hybrid cars get much better fuel economy than their gasoline-only equivalents, and, due to regenerative braking, reduce brake pad wear. Although the Prius is the hybrid poster car, many other types of hybrid cars exist today, meeting the American buyers' variety of needs.

Here are five of the latest hybrids hitting the market. … Read more

On the road in six electric cars

Internal combustion cars dominated the last century, but led to pollution and unpleasant foreign entanglements due to oil imports. Electric cars solve both of these problems through much greater efficiency and the multitude of means by which electricity is generated. The cars reviewed here look to be the first generation of the kind of vehicle that will dominate the new century. All of them are pricey compared with gasoline-fueled equivalents, but they cost considerably less for both electricity and maintenance. … Read more

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV first drive: The electric SUV stands alone

When I took the wheel of the Toyota RAV4 EV during an event in Los Angeles, two things stuck out: a Prius shifter on the console and the all-digital instrument cluster. Clearly, this SUV would not be a typical RAV4. That feeling was accentuated when pushing the start button produced a silent system check, the car booting up, as opposed to the crank of an internal combustion engine.

The exterior of the RAV4 EV also offered a few clues to the nature of its drivetrain, not least of which were the EV and Electric logos on all sides. By comparison, the lack of a large front grille seemed almost subtle.

One cue that few would notice without a spec sheet was the LED low-beam headlights, tucked away in their casings next to standard projector high beams. Toyota made a smart move here, reducing energy usage of the low beams, while reducing costs on the high beams, which get less use.

Click here to read the rest of the 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV first drive.Read more

Ford looses its Prius killer

Toyota has had an excellent run with the Prius, making it the most popular hybrid in the country. Now Ford will attempt to supplant the Prius' position with the new C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi, dedicated hybrids that can boast similar specs.

The Prius faced competition from the Honda Insight previously, and handily trashed it, so Ford will be challenging a tested competitor. Previously, Ford put its Fusion Hybrid up against the Toyota Camry Hybrid, but this is the first time Ford has brought out a dedicated hybrid, a characteristic that has helped the Prius maintain its position.… Read more

The five most connected cars

You only need to look at a smartphone to realize the usefulness of an Internet connection in a car. And the advent of smartphones is playing a big part in getting automakers to integrate connected features. People used to looking up an address on a smartphone can now do it right in their car's dashboard, and save that address to the navigation system. Other apps that can come in handy on the road, as deemed by these automakers, bring up Internet radio, social networking, and dinner reservations.… Read more