Automakers’ march to a new car future incorporating more media into the driving experience continues apace, but some are being careful to leave their customers options. Right now Apple and Google are heavily lobbying to have their technology incorporated into new car lines, but Ford, at least, is not picking sides as it does not want to force car customers to make decisions based on their cell phone provider, as opposed to their driving experiences.
By the end of 2016 all new Ford vehicles will have both Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay available to use. Users will connect their smartphones to the car via USB, the content will show up on the car’s infotainment display, and music will play through the car’s speakers. This design is supposed to allow drivers to put their attention on the road instead of on their phones.
Car manufacturers have to grapple with the challenges of adding an ever changing technology into vehicles that are supposed to have a years, even decades-long lifespan. As with all innovation nowadays, they know that what they include will be essentially out-of-date as soon as it’s driven off the car lot.
Still, there is a demand among many consumers to take as much of their online connectedness on the road with them so they will not experience any down time. Bluetooth connectivity, keyless ignitions, and autonomous driving features offer a hands-free experience unlike what most people have ever experienced in a car.
However, some people aren’t just indifferent to new technology – they actively wish to avoid it. Many older drivers are intimidated by the complexity of the dashboards in late model cars, and some people are actively spooked by features like OnStar and external cameras. They feel that their privacy has been invaded or that their driving experience has been made less safe by the inclusion of all the extra technology.
Ironically, the demographic that most embraces and demands new technology is least likely to be the one that will purchase these new cars. Millennials are not participating in the new car market like their parents and other older generations did and do. They have less money and they do not equate cars with greater status. This may be why automakers seem behind in the tech trend: high tech cars may be cooler, but they may also be less of a draw than one would assume.
While there are still new car options for tech-phobic car owners to choose from, eventually these will become fewer and fewer as technology conquers another market. But automakers will have to study the preferences of Generations X and Y to determine what they want and demand. It remains to be seen how exactly this will change what the automakers will design and offer to their customers. For now, though, get comfortable with more communication technology next to the steering wheel.