Just when one might have come to be comforted by the thought that, at least in our cars, we can sit back in relative insulation from the world – no devices, no phones ringing if we so choose – and just pay attention to our driving. . . .
It appears that that world of solitude is about to change. Both the auto industry and Silicon Valley are currently conducting pitched battles for primacy over . . . your car’s dashboard display. Some carmakers have already conceded the battle and have turned their dashboard operating systems over to Alphabet’s Google. Other car makers, like Ford, VW, Daimler feel that they have the technological clout to use their own, internal processes to design their cars’ dashboards of the future. At issue is the opportunity to send messages and advertisements to cars’ drivers while they spend, on-average, 51 minutes a day in their cars. On the future dashboard screens of cars there will likely be advertisements from local restaurants, doctors’ offices and other services that are along the route being driven. An insurance company could offer safe-driver discounts; the car makers could use metric tracking to link the car’s aging systems with notifications from their repair and service centers. There is some anticipation that a driver could begin watching a TV show at home and continue that process once in the car. And, other vendors are working on the ability to allow drivers to order and pay for gasoline, coffee and other needs on their dashboard screens. (And, this in the face of current outcry about how dangerous texting while driving is – ?) But, the possible dollars to be generated will likely win out in any arguments about safety: it’s speculated that $750 billion in new revenue could be generated by 2030. And proponents chortle that they see this as a battle for the “fourth screen” – after the TV, the computer, and the cell phone screens. Users of current modern dashboard screens cite the same difficulties that I have found – there’s always something on the jam-packed screen that doesn’t work the way it should: the sound, on/off, etc. and trying to remedy that requires pulling off the freeway and wrestling with it. One user – the proud owner of a new truck – says that he always checks out his route before getting in the vehicle so that he won’t have to use its navigation system, which is known for defective routings. And, so, with all the current confusion of the modern screens, the auto companies think that we’ll now be willing to turn something that is already a visual and operational challenge into something even more confusing, with ads no less. I’d say that that’s probably a very good reason not to buy a new car after 2020. I hope the auto makers are prepared for this eventuality. Perhaps they could also manufacture stripped-down models that offer the basic dashboard, without the fancy flourishes.