What are some good car advancements?
It's easy (and fun) to bemoan the addition of technology that no one asked for, to solve a problem none of us had. But what is a good feature?
One of the things that I have disliked about previous roles in which I have worked is the idea that people only ever contact you when things are going wrong. There's never a phone call that arrives in where the individual says, "Hey there. Yeah, all is good. Well done. Keep it up."
Pick any kind of enthusiast segment, be it technology, movies, television, videogames, and people can tend to gripe for the sake of griping. Apple releases a phone, there's grizzles. Movies come out, and people grumble. Update a videogame incorrectly, and people can go into a meltdown.
So, in the interest of being a more constructive individual, rather than groaning because the world is changing in a way that makes me scared, I thought I'd detail an example of technology I think the car industry has gotten right.
For a technology to be successful, I feel, there are some set criteria to meet.
For me, the feature must be unobtrusive. It must be reliable and predictable, engaging whenever the driver expects it (just to reassure that it's working correctly). It must also serve to complement the driver's own ability, rather than look to supplant it and relieve the driver of responsibility.
I cannot think of any example better than blind-spot monitoring.
Image courtesy audi-mediacenter.com
My time with blind-spot monitoring did not start out well, initially. When driving my family's Tiguan, the blind-spot monitor is a large amber indicator, much like the one pictured from the Audi image above. It's a large reticle that shone so brightly, I frequently mistook it for a vehicle in my rearview that was signalling to swerve into the lane behind me.
Over time, my brain grew accustomed to the bright orange light, and its urgent flickering when I use my turn signal while a car is in my blind-spot. I have since acclimatised to its knowing glow, eventually coming to trust that its radar eyes are just as good as my own.
It's not obtrusive, and just seems to exist in the corners of my eye. It is neither overly distracting or demanding of my attention, much like an obedient pet.
Whenever I see a vehicle approaching in my mirror, the light shines just as I expect it to, becoming predictable. This leads to a growing in trust of the tech, not too dissimilar to the trusting relationship I have with other important features of the car - like brakes, for instance.
Ultimately, it also doesn't nullify my own responsibility of performing a shoulder-check when changing lanes either. This means that the features doesn't dull my own skills or reduce the need to employ my ever-dwindling brain skills to be observant of traffic.
And on top of all that, the technology also seems to be relatively universal, with each make and model employing similar symbols and housings, so that drivers can easily hop into any vehicle without having to reprogram their brains to adapt to different pictures meaning different things.
For all the hang-wringing I might perform at the introduction of the technological hall monitors that are ready to scold us for the crime of imperfection, I will acknowledge that - at least in my experience - the car makers have gotten blind-spot monitoring right. It ticks all the boxes I detail above, and does it in a way that builds confidence in the feature.
It's easy to grumble about what you dislike, but sometimes - especially at this time of year - we gotta be thankful for what we get right.