Originally published in the Clarion-Ledger on 6/29/2014.
Fellow baby boomers, you’ll likely agree with me that riding in a vehicle was a lot simpler when we were growing up. We would get in the car and start the engine with a key. If we wanted to listen to music, there was the trusty AM radio, with its simple dial.
Seat belts (if they were present at all) were probably pushed down behind the seat cushions. The ride was solid and generally comfortable, although those vinyl seats would burn when we sat on them in the heat of a Mississippi summer. If we got hot, we’d roll down the window with a crank.
All in all, it was a much simpler time for car buyers. The car was a way to get from point “A” to point “B.”
Today’s car shoppers view the automobile as more than simple transport; it’s an extension of the home. Cars today are lighter, less powerful, less thirsty and generally safe. Increasingly, cars are making decisions which were once the exclusive province of the human driver. Vehicles can now park themselves, prevent a collision, warn you if you’re falling asleep, and find the best route for you.
Recently, Kelley Blue Book conducted a survey to find out what features new car buyers are now expecting in their vehicles. Manufacturers pay attention to these surveys; they help drive what’s offered in future model years. It’s no surprise that they’re all technological features, although several are safety features as well.
Topping the list: USB and auxiliary ports, considered a “must have” by 43 percent. These ports allow users of smartphone and other devices to plug in their devices for charging and interaction.
Second are better vehicle diagnostics (40 percent), which keep track of all the car’s vital statistics. Among the other “must haves”:
- Back-up and blindspot cameras. These are scheduled to be required standard equipment on all vehicles in 2016.
- Bluetooth. This is not only an entertainment feature but can be an important safety feature for speech-to-text technology.
- Premium sound.
- Stolen vehicle recovery or immobilization.
- Collision sensors, which can signal for help.
Vehicle technology is evolving faster and faster, and those changes are changing the nature of personal transport. It’s likely that in 30 years or so, the most high-tech cars of today will seem as quaint as riding in your dad’s land yacht seems to today’s teenagers.