Entertainment can be old school too, Jack. It doesn't necessarily mean electronics. I'm working a system installation in the field with two coworkers right now. Coming back to our hotel Thursday night, we watched in amazement as the lady driving the car to our left dealt playing cards on a lap board as she drove. This was at night, so she had her ceiling light on so as to see them.
In a previous article, I commented that the electronics lifetime will not match the life of the car. I strongly feel the automakers need to step out of electronics and instead provide power bus access only. 5V USB, and maybe some 120V outlets, for the devices that assist (such as GPS).
The simple answer is no, we do not need all this stuff. I think it breaks down to two simple directions: user-assist vs entertainment. It's one thing to have the additional technology make driving easier or safer. A GPS, for instance, tells you exactly where you are, where you want to go, and the street you just missed. I can't count the number of times prior to GPS that I've seen someone driving with an unfolded map over the steering wheel. I made sure they were either well ahead of me or well behind me. Similarly, such technology as blind-spot annunciation or backup cameras help the driver see things they may not have been able to see and prevent accidents. On the other hand, if half the companies out there ban Facebook from their work computers, I really don't see a driver needing it.
There already exists two classes of vehicles designed specifically for the inattentive who prefer to chat, text and/or Facebook instead of paying attention to the road: cabs and limos.
We moan and groan and create endless road-side memorials [a further distraction no less] to the "victims" of driver inattentiveness. We spend countless hours and taxpayer dollars investigating these accidents and ways to prevent them; the result being numerous reports, recommendations, bills, laws, etc. etc. etc.. Some ban the use of cell phones. Some ban texting. That 7" DVD screen in the dashboard is supposed to be disabled when the vehicle is in motion; except any half decent installer can enable it full time for a nice tip. In fact some design several semi-critical interfaces using an Atari-like joystick and expect the driver to take his eyes off the road at 80 MPH to change radio stations, select another CD or change from defrost to cabin. Chevy bragged in a recent Facebook ad that their new trucks will have a built-in router so the driver can run his whole office from the cab of the truck (presumably at 80 MPH again while balancing his coffee in one hand and typing on the laptop with the other). Apparently they expect the knees to come into play for steering and acceleration/braking. I'm all kinds of excited at the prospect of this fellow sharing the road with my children (who now drive).
Let's cut the crap. If you want drive, drive. If you want to play or chat or Facebook, call a cab or the limo service.
The car companies are equally to blame here and I am amazed no ambulance chaser has thought of this yet. By including systems specifically designed to distract the driver from his primary purpose (safely negotiating the roadways from point A to point B), the car company has implicitly made itself liable for distracted-driver accidents. If an adult serves alcohol to a minor and allows them to drive away, that adult can (and should) be held liable for any and all events that ensue. I don't see why we should cut the car manufacturer's any less slack.
And the solution is oh so simple. And I'm not talking about systems that automatically interface with your cell phone so you can keep yakking with your stock broker or yelling at your girlfriend while you're driving. If you need to use the phone, pull over or wait until you get there. If your life is so complicated that 60 seconds is going to be a deal-breaker, you need a new life.
The solution is to line the roof and glass with a wifi / cell - proof material that renders all of these gadgets mute. Oooh. You might miss the latest Gaga tweet or what IBM stock did in the last two minutes. Big freaking deal. Nobody died while you were distracted either. Less time spent investigating accidents and explaining to Mom that her daughter is in pieces in the morgue. Less time making endless studies and reports and legislative wrangling to pass bills restricting the use of distractions (ie, cell phones, etc.) that most will ignore anyhow.
If you think you are so valuable that you can't be away from the phone for a few minutes, tell the boss you want a limo. It might be a valuable lesson in perception. LoL
Don't fret. I realize this opinion is very unpopular in the current "Only I, me and myself count!" culture. In fact I suspect more than a few are already headed for their elephant guns. So, ta ta.
How many car accidents promoted by people using phones, tablets or LapTops while driving, how many car owners will have to pay stratospheric sums for correcting problems that evade 99% of the available technicians? What will do us, the people of the DIY camp, when we are facing automobiles that are completely 'repair-unfriendly'... What can we expect when a manufacturer (Ford) is selling a SUV with "autopark-assist" (I certainly remember that I had to pass my first driving license exam at 18 by having to park a large patrol car inside a quite tight space -it was possible, but certainly not easy-) so that young people won't have to even know hot to park a car, and they will be free to cruise at high speed while playing a computerized device NOT intended to be used while driving! This is madness...
Get me back to my reliable, easy to maintain, well designed car of the 90's. Just limit designers to correct their few defects and keep on improving their basi design, nobody really needs a super computer complex on wheels.
Send all these Monkey minded "car designers" to another planet, so that THIS planet return to sanity! amclaussen.
Great article, Chuck. I am one of those who scratch their head as to why we need all this electronics in cars and am guilty of having a vehicle that has all of the fancy bells whistles, most of which I don't use.
That said, the point about millennials expecting all of this gadgetry in their cars is absolutely on target and one I never really considered. Obviously, the automotive manufacturers have to anticipate the needs of their next audience. The more pressing question is will this upcoming generation get the jobs and make the big bucks so they can afford all these fancy cars!
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