auto

New bells and whistles for 2009 models

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 Tool inventory system: Wonder if you packed a specific piece of equipment or tool? Ask your truck.

How it works: Drivers tag the items with radio-frequency identification chips and input that inventory into a dashboard computer. When the truck is on, dual antennas scan the tool box for the items and show the results on the computer screen.

One manufacturer using this technology is Ford, which calls it "Tool Link."

 Scratch-correcting paint: After a scratch, this clear coat "will gel back together and heal itself," says Bob Yakushi, director of product safety at Nissan North America. It takes "a couple of days in moderate temperatures," he says. (Warmth and light help it work.) In winter or colder temperatures, he adds, it could take a few extra days.

One manufacturer using this technology is Infiniti, which calls it "Scratch Shield."

 Refrigerator: Some vehicles will carry refrigerators big enough to stash lunch or chill a few bottles of water. Consumers can set the temperature to refrigerate or freeze.

Ford is one automaker using this technology.

 Portable navigation systems: With some high-tech packages, automakers are including navigation systems that users can remove and carry with them, says Brian Moody, road test editor for Edmunds.com. This allows you to carry it with you when you travel and put it into a rental car or take it on a hike.

Toyota, Hyundai and Volvo are among the automakers using variations of this technology, says Moody.

 Remote start: This will start the car before you even get in, but you have to be within a certain distance. Available for a few years and standard on many higher priced cars, it's now showing up on more affordable models, says Moody.

 Phone service: Many automakers are coming up with various ways of integrating phone service into vehicles. It can qualify as a safety feature if you ever break down or need roadside assistance. But driving and chatting increases the likelihood you'll be in an accident, says Zuby. Studies by the IIHS (as well as other groups) show that your chances of being in an accident quadruple if you're talking on your cell phone, whether you're holding it or going hands-free, he says.

 Push-button start: You've heard of keyless entry? This is a keyless starter. Instead of inserting a key, you press a button. But don't expect the engine to turn over for just anyone. With the Prius, you need to have the "electronic key fob" in your pocket. Expect to see more push-button starter mechanisms in the future, says Moody. "More people are adding them to their cars. They're more convenient."

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