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October 25, 2014

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CONVENTIONS:

It’s hot-rod heaven at conventions of all things car merchandise

The nation’s largest automotive trade show rolled into Las Vegas this week, bringing with it some of the world’s most flashy cars and mind-boggling accessories.

If you are envisioning an overblown Pep Boys, you’re still selling it short. With 2,000 vendors spread across 2 million square feet, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show and Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX) are among the largest trade shows in the world.

Exhibitors are hawking almost every kind of product imaginable: tires, wheels, rims, carburetors, speakers, stereos, tools, T-shirts, toys, flags, gloves, calendars, ramps, trailers, tents and more. Most products make sense for an automotive audience. A few seemed to come out of left field. Some went beyond belief (for example: cars that drive themselves).

Because the public isn’t allowed into the conventions, the Sun scanned the scene to find the newest and coolest in aftermarket accessories. Here’s a taste of what’s headed to local garages:

    • Windshield data projector
      /Courtesy of SEMA

      Windshield data projector

      A tiny computer reminiscent of a projector can turn your windshield into a visual smorgasbord. Get directions, monitor your speed, receive warnings about hazards and display music selections without taking your eyes off the road.

      Sun Innovations’ Head-Up Display shoots transparent holograph images onto a vehicle’s windshield without blocking drivers’ view (although it’s up for debate how distracting such a product is). It works day or night and is viewable from any angle.

    • Heat-blocking car cover
      /Provided by Cool Cap

      Heat-blocking car cover

      In a desert city such as Las Vegas, the Cool Cap claims to lower a car’s interior temperature by up to 100 degrees. Conversely, it makes ice and snow removal a breeze if you live in cold country.

      The reflective fabric car cover wraps around the full top half of a vehicle to act like a portable garage. It’s secured with hooks and straps, and developers say it works better than a sun shade because its material is non-breathable and waterproof.

      The cap comes in four universal sizes, which range in price from $69.95 to $89.95 and cover cars, trucks, SUVs and sports cars.

    • Inflatable booster seat
      /Courtesy of SEMA

      Inflatable booster seat

      Booster seats are a must for most children under 8, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but they can be a pain for parents to transfer from car to car or bring on vacation. Enter the inflatable booster, the world’s first, according to manufacturer Fathom It Distributing.

      It fully complies with American and European safety measures, inflates in 30 seconds from a water bottle-sized carrying case and recently won a gold medal from the National Parenting Center. Plus, at $59.99, it’s not much more expensive than its stationary counterpart.

    • Radar detection network
      /Courtesy of SEMA

      Radar detection network

      Evade the cops with the help of fellow drivers. ESCORT Live uses Bluetooth technology to relay information about speed traps to smart phone apps. When a driver encounters a laser gun, the information is sent to the ESCORT Live network. When another driver approaches, the app warns them of the lurking officer.

    • Mind-reading headset
      /Courtesy of SEMA

      Mind-reading headset

      This product is straight out of a science fiction movie. A headset reads your mood and selects songs from your iPod to fit your disposition. Feeling blue? How about a little Sarah McLachlan? Someone just cut you off? Maybe some Slayer.

      The $100 headset from PLX Devices uses medical-grade electroencephalography (EEG) technology to detect alpha and beta brainwave rhythms that determine a person’s attention level and meditation state. Early reviews are spotty, but according to manufacturers, the XWave uses the information to create music playlists based on a subject’s mood. Apps also let people watch their own brain activity in real time. Concentrate on a particular feeling, and you can change the on-screen flow.

    • Self-filling windshield washer system
      /Courtesy of SEMA

      Self-filling windshield washer system

      Never get caught without wiper fluid again. The Brimtech BH2O gathers condensed water from a vehicle’s air conditioner, filters it, then transforms it to windshield washing fluid that automatically fills a car’s fluid reservoir. The system is little more than a plastic cartridge and a few tubes and is small and easy to install.

      Manufacturers tout their product’s environmental appeal: It uses no freshwater and could eliminate the use of millions of plastic bottles.

    • SEMA 2011: Day 2
      Photo by Steve Marcus

      Camper-top tents

      Gone are the days of clearing ground for a tent, hammering stakes into dirt and fiddling with clumsy tent poles, loops and tarps. Now you can sleep atop your vehicle. Simply push a few buttons and — pop — a high-tech tent appears from the roof of the vehicle.

      Adventure companies are rolling out elaborate camper tops that include tents that fold into hard, flat cases that fit on the roof racks of most vehicles.

      “If a hunter wants to pull up camp and follow a deer, it takes one minute to pack up,” said Paul Leazer, of Wild Boar Products, a company showcasing the tents.

      Wild Boar’s version runs $2,495 for a fully-loaded model, which features a bed, table, LED lighting, DVD player and flat screen TV. Sorry, no rooftop fire pits.

    • Air fresheners
      /AP

      Immortal air freshener

      Sick of those little trees hanging from your rearview mirror? With the Ultimate Air Freshener, you’ll never need one again.

      This system claims to keep a car smelling fresh for months. Simply push a button on a small device that resembles a keyless remote and a burst of aroma wafts from the vehicle’s air vents. Choose among multiple flavors, including strawberry, baby powder and piña colada.

      Systems cost $79.95, and scent refills cost $8.95.

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    1. Having markers for potential threats such as the deer on the side could be useful, but putting anything other than vital alerts on a HUD would be far more distracting and dangerous than a conventional dash display, in my opinion.