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Car Tech Spotlight: Road Learning and gas finder in GMC Sierra Denali

As perennially popular vehicles, trucks are getting more electronic and convenience amenities.

By Douglas Newcomb Dec 21, 2012 9:52AM

GMC Denali pickup.Pickups aren’t the bare-bones utilitarian workhorses they once were. Chrysler, for example, recently launched its cutting-edge Internet-enabled Uconnect Access infotainment system, not on a car or minivan, but on the 2013 Ram pickup (as well as the 2013 Viper).

The 2013 GMC Sierra Denali pickup is another example of how truck owners are being pampered with cool tech features. In addition to heated seats and a heated steering wheel -- always a welcome creature comfort this time of year -- the 2013 Denali I recently drove has one feature I’d never seen before, and another I have seen and always appreciate.

While “bread-crumbing” to track a vehicle’s path is common on many vehicles with a navigation system, particularly those that can go off-road, the Road Learning feature that’s part of the Denali’s nav system is the first of its kind that I’ve seen. If selected in the navigation menu, it will automatically learn a road that the vehicle has driven on twice or more during an ignition cycle.

While this may seem overkill for some, like me, who wonder why someone would need to remember a road they frequently take, it could come in handy for the directionally or memory challenged. It also adds convenience.

In route-guidance mode, the nav system will display a "learned road" on the map as a pointer. The driver can select the pointer icon on the map and then save it to the address book as a destination when needed. After a road is learned and becomes part of the map database, the nav system will use the route to create a shortcut to a destination, if one is available.

The feature does have a couple of limitations. The learned road must begin on a known road in the database, and it can’t be longer than two miles.

The other feature that bears pointing out in this pickup is a low-gas alert. Many vehicles give the driver an indication of when the fuel tank is getting low, and some with navigation systems will also point out the nearest stations. The navigation system in the Denali goes a step further by not only giving the driver an alert, but when the driver presses a tab on the screen, it will show the closest stations and give options to create a route to any of them.

We’re seeing technology -- from connectivity to advanced safety features -- once reserved for luxury vehicles trickle down to all car segments. Given their perennial popularity, it makes sense that pickups would join the party.

GMC Denali pickup.

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