Electronics Are Hijacking Our Cars

January 20th, 2012

Audi A3 with Google Earth integration

In the old days (maybe five years ago), one of the horrors you’d see on the road was a driver fumbling to unfold his map while buzzing through traffic. Now, he looks at his GPS, which conveys much more (and more accurate) information while buzzing through traffic.

But it’s the same pressure to know where you’re going before you get there, and the driver still takes his eyes and attention off the road.

Audi now gives him all the detail and distraction of Google Earth (see above); Mercedes-Benz gives him “Facebook, Yelp, a news reader, Morningstar Finance, Google search, Google Street View, and Panoramio.” We note that “many” (why not all?) of the Benz apps are blocked while the car is moving.

CNET tells us that this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was in large part a venue for automakers to display their newest screens, apps and dashboard glitz—most designed to bring all the junk on your phone into the car. The so-called connected car is gaining “incredible momentum.”

The car companies are touting this stuff like mad. Ford Social tells us how great all the upgrades and enhancements are for MyFord Touch (see right). If you have an older version (which a lot of people hated), they will upgrade your software by sending you a free thumb drive to plug in.

Ford is working on an allergy alert system for your car—to tell you things like pollen counts, I guess, which you can’t do anything about—and a system to monitor a driver’s blood glucose level. All you heavy-duty eaters and diabetes management fans take note: Ford says it’s developing “the car that cares.”

Never to be outdone, Chrysler is crowing about its Uconnect system, “including hands-free phone, navigation, voice command, Sirius XM Traffic and Travel Link and… premium Beats by Dr. Dre studio sound system.” I wants those premium Beats, baby.

All the electronic gadgetry is rapidly seeping into smaller, less-expensive cars. There may soon come a time when you will pay extra to have this stuff not included in your vehicle. At least, I hope so. There will be more highway deaths among the young, dumb and distracted, despite all the noise of the AAA and NHTSA about safety.

Am I being overly harsh here, or do you agree that most all the electronic gizmology in cars is dangerous?

—jgoods

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  1. panayoti
    | #1

    Agreed. What worries most is that you can be the most conscientious driver on the planet with a Bondurant school certificate and still get killed by all this distracting junk. Much as I dislike LaHood, I think he has the right idea.

  2. Randy
    | #2

    …Gosh, I thought you were dead set against the government telling people what they can and can’t buy.

  3. panayoti
    | #3

    A good fastball pitcher also has curve balls, change ups, and sliders in his repertoire.

  4. Randy
    | #4

    …Except this one falls more in the category of spit ball.

  5. | #5

    as a bit of an audiophile, I heard that the Beats line of products is overpriced for the sound quality. At least their headphones and small speakers (like the ones in some laptops and smartphones) are. Maybe some properly sized speakers will sound better, but I still feel like you’re paying more for the brand than for quality (just like any Apple product, but that’s a whole new argument). There’s a reason I prefer to build my own audio systems from the ground up, in cars and at home. Sound quality is superb and the price is still reasonable

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