2012年2月10日星期五

Vehicle Technology Is Racing Towards the Information Superhighway!

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More than five years ago, one of the U.S. domestic automakers introduced a plan to bring Bluetooth-driven technology to the forefront of their vehicles. Since then almost all auto manufacturers are racing to introduce new vehicle technologies as fast as they can. Many consumers embrace the new technologies, while a sizable number have raised the question - has it gone too far?
In early 2011, Consumer Reports, a widely-read consumer magazine, actually gave a negative review of then new Ford 2011 Edge equipped with the new MyFord Touch technology. Their editorial staff claimed the vehicle's technology was not "user friendly." They felt automakers were forcing technology down the throats of consumers.
On the other side of the technology coin, cell phone companies have been competing for the consumer to adopt smartphone technology. There's an App for this and and App for that, and it was inevitable that the demand for smartphone technologies would affect the sale of automobiles.
Today, almost everyone uses a cellphone. It's hard to find anyone who uses a cellphone just to "talk." Most are checking e-mail, sending texts, listening to music, and playing videos or games.
In the last century the ultimate goal for a teenager was to get a driver's license and a car of their own. Today's pre-teens want an unlimited talk and data plan and a smartphone!
It's to the point now, that consumers base their car-buying decision on the technology in the vehicle! In other words... "I don't want the car if I can't Bluetooth stream my music!"
Ford Motor Company was on the forefront with its SYNC hands-free communications system that it introduced in 2007. This system uses voice commands and steering wheel mounted controls to make it easy for a driver to keep their concentration on the road while making and receiving phone calls.
When it comes to technology, all manufacturers have something... GM has IntelliLink, Dodge and Chrysler have UConnect, Kia has its Uvo, Toyota has its BLU technology and the list goes on and on. The goal of automakers is to create hands-free technology to make and receive calls with Bluetooth enabled phones. However, that was just the start.
Ford's system evolved into the MyFord Touch system, first introduced on the 2011 Edge and Explorer models. These systems have an on-board computer similar to a laptop and they receive voice commands to control phone calls, text messaging, selecting audio entertainment, adjusting climate control and helping find destinations.
The challenge for Ford was to create a system that worked with a multitude of phones, cell phone companies, different cell phone software systems, not to mention customers who spoke with a lisp or could not be understood by the system computer.
Ford engineers, along with help from the system developers at Microsoft, are currently beta-testing a new operating system. This editor has used the beta-test and found it to be much improved. It's easer to read, faster to navigate through its screens and it seems the computer can understand voice commands a little better. Within a few months Ford will roll out its new operating software for existing customers to "update" their system and Ford's new vehicles will be based on this new software system.
The history of the automobile is kind of strange isn't it? It's one thing to see the evolution of mechanical technologies such as engines, transmissions, and brakes. It's a surprise to see auto manufacturers in the software and computer business. Next we'll be hearing TV commercials for a powerful, fast new vehicle, but instead of horsepower they'll be talking about computer megahertz speed! Or maybe, Dell Computers will start selling computers that seat seven and have awesome internet connections. Are vehicles being built for the highway or the information highway, or both?
Consumers don't really need to "kick the tires" on a new vehicle any more. They need to know what technology they can access in their vehicle. The internet has become a required tool for car shopping. Once they find a vehicle, then the customers have to learn how to use all of those features.
Car dealerships better start looking for car salesmen from the Geek Squad!

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