Connectivity is the big thing with cars these days. Back in the day, it used to be about styling and horsepower. Lots of horsepower. But now, it seems that ‘connectivity’ is what car buyers care most about. Going by the many studies and reports that one can find on the Web, it seems millennials don’t care about cars or about driving – the only thing they want is to be connected 24x7. Which is probably why during my two-hour daily commute from home to work and back, I see so many people staring into their mobile phones while driving their cars. If talking on the phone while driving a car wasn’t bad enough, we now have people checking their Facebook/Twitter/Instagram etc., while driving!
To someone who started driving more than three decades ago, when the only connectivity we had was one black, chunky, land line phone in the living room (that worked as long as the linesmen were paid their monthly dues), the very idea of looking away from the road and staring into a digital display of some sort, while driving a car, is pretty much inconceivable. Driving requires complete attention, unmitigated focus. It can’t be any other way. And yet, the automotive industry today is working on all kinds of connectivity and infotainment ‘solutions’ which it’s bundling into its cars. And consumers are lapping it all up, happily fiddling with their smartphones, syncing those to the car’s on-board infotainment system, jabbing at touchscreens, sending messages and ‘consuming content,’ all while driving a 1500 kg machine at 80 km/h.
I have come to accept that as I get older, there are many things I can no longer understand, and connectivity in cars is one of those things. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for things like navigation apps (Google Maps is a blessing) and playing a bit of music in the car never hurt anyone. But should the infotainment system really become the central focus of the car’s interiors? While driving, should drivers be directing their undivided attention to the road and traffic around them, or should they be encouraged to focus on Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, and Bluetooth connectivity for their smartphone? If you ask me, Tweeting on the go, posting Facebook updates and sending WhatsApp messages while driving is completely unacceptable, and the automotive industry should collectively take steps to ensure that such ‘connectivity’ is severely limited or even disabled in cars.
To reiterate, I’m not against the kind of connectivity that helps us function better while driving a car – voice navigation and music apps are fine. But anything that requires, or encourages, drivers to take their eyes off the road and look into a screen for many seconds at a time is undeniably wrong, and must be strongly discouraged. For those who just can’t do without staring at a smartphone screen (or any other digital display for that matter) even while driving, you might want to consider limiting your driving to the driving sims you’ve installed on your smartphone.