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Newfangled Contraptions: Do cars need touch screens and Bluetooth?

  • By Ryan Skidmore

Manufacturers think, “more is better.”

The above party thinks, yes, it’s what people want. The process by which product specialists and marketers arrive at their conclusions is as varied as it is wild, yet at the end they are reasonable certain their creation is, surely, what people crave. And, some of these answers spring from the great tradition of the focus group. (I was in a focus group this weekend.) Within the hallowed white walls of that social laboratory, people imagine themselves making hands free calls with integrated Bluetooth. (Picture a mother smiling through the rearview mirror to a precious little one, in the back seat, knowing that both of them are safe). So, in that context, more stuff sounds much better. Plus, tech companies are the hot ticket right now. Of course, more touch screens, drive mods, voice commands, and music streaming options are better.

Danger: Some people will use this and like this.

Do cars need these features? Hypothetical: give an adult a smart phone with “cool new features” and watch them only use the basics and one or two advanced functions. There will always be core functions everyone uses. Driving. The radio. But after these, masses find contentment, the few will push on. Some consumers will use every feature and stay in contact with the manufacturer, providing frequent feedback. This is a classic player in the tech space, but now the car space is the tech space. The few and the proud, here, are the squeaky wheel that gets the grease of constant and excessive innovation. Finally, critics will laud it. The more cool tech stuff is jam-packed into the interior, the cooler that car becomes. Critics could be considered the echo in the echo chamber of automotive innovation, particularly interior accessories.

So, do cars need touch screens and Bluetooth (and other gizmos)? Sometimes.

The Origin of Species.

Innovation creates new kinds of cars. Not one or two innovations, but entire swathes of innovations create new categories of technology that create new cars and new categories of cars. The Tesla Model S is a product of this. While it is not the first electric car it is arguably the most substantial. Most relevant to this blog is the large touch screen used to operate everything and the software that makes the whole thing run. Another, and opposite, historic example is the 1958 Ford Edsel that had numerous cutting edge innovations for its day and more marketing than almost any car before it, but flopped hard. (Lessons from the failure of the Ford Edsol) So to further enhance the above answer, cars need some of items that have little to do with actual driving, but could do without many of them.

Evaluating as a Business

Business owners now face a different dilemma when it comes to their fleet of cars.  They must evaluate which features actually do provide a positive return on their investment.  When purchasing cars and upgrading them with different technologies like a fleet tracking solution, owners need to make sure their cars provide a benefit for the business.  For example, the ability for the radio to connect with a drivers phone to play music, will not provide a tangible benefit for the business.  But having the ability to monitor driving behavior and real-time vehicle location can provide tangible benefits for the business.  As technology keeps advancing, owners must educate themselves to make better decisions and focus entirely on what brings the best return on the investment.  At the end of the day, an owner’s main focus is increasing profits at the lowest operational cost possible.

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