You know the old joke about calling over your kids to program the VCR? Connect your PC to the printer? Or even find and download an app? Well, it’s not funny when you can’t figure out how to change the fan speed in a new car’s climate control system or, heck, just how to turn on the AC. It’s not because adults are stupid or — more politically correct — “neuronically challenged”. It’s that, between waking up too early in the morning, preparing breakfast for the kids, finding the right outfit for the day, dealing with morning rush hour traffic, flirting with the admin/intern/attractive colleague, kowtowing to one’s pointy-haired boss, meeting deadlines, running errands during lunch, spilling coffee all over presentation in attempt for quick bite to eat, getting yelled at by that boss for terrible presentation, getting phone calls/text messages from spouse/kids about their horrible days, sneaking away to have affair with said admin/intern/attractive colleague, dealing with evening rush hour traffic, sharing a cold dinner and cold stares with family and cold shoulder from spouse as you go to bed way too late…well, there’s a lot on our minds.
That’s why Ford had it right when introducing the Microsoft Sync infotainment system in its entry-level Ford Focus compact. Now call MyFord Touch, the system allows to driver to control their iphone/smartphone apps via verbal commands as well as use other features from the phone like GPS navigation. Younger car buyers, already familiar with such technologies and actually liking them, would be drawn to the Ford Focus.
Contrast this to the more traditional system of offering such technology on high-end brands and vehicles by automakers. That’s what BMW did when it first introduced its iDrive system in the 7 Series flagship. Cadillac is also doing the same with its CUE system on its upcoming XTS. Automakers say they roll out new tech this way because such systems are expensive. While that may be true, the older buyer will be less inclined to actually want such technology or use it. Again, it’s not necessarily a lack of interest (though there’s that, too), but of time and/or patience. Most of today’s infotainment systems have high learning curves and older buyers don’t want the hassle in learrning the dizzying number of ways to listen their favorite songs via radio, satellite radio, CD player, DVD player, thumb drive, iPod/mp3 player, iPhone/smartphone, hard disk, app, Bluethooth, wi-fi, and streaming. And they really don’t want to ask their kids and deal with one of their, “oh, what a douche” looks.
Complicating an already complex system is the screens found in today’s cars. The traditional instrument cluster with its analogue speedometer and tachometer are being replaced with digital equivalents or readouts of such information as well as condensed version of whatever’s on the nearby centerstack monitor. This can include directions, music selection, as well as custom features like active cruise control to tire pressure info. Today’s cars could easily have up to five screens: dash, centerstack, two behind the front row seats, and even a projection in front of the driver. There’s concern by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that such myriads systems could be distracting to drivers, perhaps fatally.
Automotive.com’s take: We embrace car tech in all its forms but can see the concern. What do you think, though? Should such systems and their high-learning curves be first introduced in entry-level cars where younger buyers embrace such tech? Or do they rightfully belong among the older drivers who can actually afford them? As always, let us know in the comments below.