New Car Technology And Electronics: Necessity, Luxury Or Headache?

By 2010, electronic components will make up 40% of the value of the vehicle, says a study by Automotive News. That means that new car technology will increasingly depend on computer chips and advanced technology components to operate. Is this complexity a need of drivers, a luxury or a headache?

A recent Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) study takes a look at what consumers have in their car and what they want. According to the survey, digital audio alternatives, fuel economy, safety and navigation features are the most sought after new automotive technologies.

The investigation also found that 25% of drivers own an MP3 player for their car. Other popular technologies are:

  • Keyless entry (55%)
  • Alarm systems (48%)
  • Component speakers (34%)
  • DVD players (32%)

As far as what people want, CEA found that consumers would like to see improved safety, navigation aids and access to more content in their vehicles. However, the most desired products are satellite radio and Internet access.

Of course, being able to surf the worldwide web and public streets at the same time would require more computers and buttons, which may also complicate things for some drivers.

An Edmunds.com review of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz S-Class points out that: “The COMAND electronics system uses a control knob and screen to work most entertainment and navigation functions, but the lack of physical dash buttons (like those found in the E-Class) tends to complicate the operation of frequently used functions. The S-Class’ abundance of features can also be a bit overwhelming.” The rotary knob and blinking lights already make it almost impossible for the common driver to understand the system, even after reading the 700-page owner’s manual.

Toyota seems to understand this problem and is trying to simplify the complexity of its electronic components by reducing control units from 60 to 4. According to Automotive Magazine, these computers would control power train, safety devices, body and multimedia.

When BMW invented the iDrive system to control vehicle and entertainment settings, the goal was to simplify the process by using menus and sub menus, all controlled by a single rotary lever with less physical buttons.

However, many drivers still find the iDrive system confusing at best. Worst of all, it is very unsafe to take your eyes off the road and fiddle with the control knob.


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