The Double-Edged Gear Shift

The key-less entry. The navigational system. The centralized command center. The GPS key with a push-start engine. The electronic clock.

All of these are examples of the continuously evolving digital revolution within the automobile. As Jay Leno could passionately profess about, for hours, cars were first built so that everything had a specific purpose. If a car did not work properly, it was a certainty that something literally was too loose, too tight, missing, burned out, not filled up, etc. If a tire went flat, it was as simple as getting out a jack, a safety stand, a tire iron and screws to then manually use our own muscles to take off the busted tire and take out the spare from the trunk and fit it onto the axle. And yet, in 2013, these garage shop truths are changing. Despite being only a little more than a decade into the 21st century, progress is moving quite fast towards the automobile’s new skeleton and vital organs.

Ladies and gentlemen, the geeks are now taking over…cars. Yes, you read that correctly. Vroom-Vroom! (a sound effect downloaded from the iTunes installed in the car).

For the majority of the 21st century, it is safe to presume that cars, or whatever their new name becomes, will undergo a manufacturing transition from the garage to the lab…a computer lab to be more specific. As mentioned above, subtle upgrades have been occurring for many years now. For instance, just ponder the first car you remember sitting in with a digital clock. This minor observation deserved no spectacular reaction, but it was the first step towards the current car revolution. Substitute the crescent wrench for the USB cable.

While transitioning from one era to another can be overwhelming and even unnerving, there too are tremendous upsides. Replay the above clip and notice again how amazing the BMW prototype used in the movie, “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” was in the scenes it starred. For starters, it showcased a windshield that served as a transparent iPad with blazing speeds and an instantaneous navigational system. Just the fact that movie writers dreamed that as a reality is a sign of how cars are being perceived by today’s imagination. For better or worse, mankind has become attached to his and her smart device(s), so it only seems appropriate, and evolutionary, that we innovate towards a technologically advanced car.

Hmmm, this seems familiar?

Mr. Feeny as the voice of my car? Where is that in the App Store!?

The Age of the Electric Car is closely upon us. To the next generation, the internal combustion engine could become an artifact of the past. The tipping point of the automobile’s next phase has been determined and is currently being implemented in small steps as to test its reliability and compatibility with the public. The touch screen in the middle of the front seats is a type of computer, as is any navigational system included with the car or added separately. The sensors that measure the weather outside also qualify. Now a button or the light tap of a foot opens the rear door of an SUV. The key for a new Lexus RX 350, for example, only needs to be in possession of a person to enable him or her to lock, unlock and start the designated car. This key already possesses a wireless feature. Is this just the tip of the iceberg of inventing more wireless devices and features? What’s next?

Technology is proving to have virtually no boundaries and cars are just one of its projects. But as Jay Leno has pointed out in the past, “I’ve got an electric car. It’s quite advanced, it goes 100 miles on a charge, it’s fully electric and it was built in 1909.” Perhaps, we are just living in the electric car’s renaissance a century later?

As the body of the car changes, so does the car culture. The more computer developments that are added means, consequentially, that fewer traditional mechanics will be needed and tech “geniuses” (like at Best Buy and the Apple store) will therefore be in higher demand. The free market will add this dynamic and society will adapt. Will the absence of mechanics and their hands-on skill, knowledge and brawn be a good thing?

The “do it yourself” option is gradually disappearing. The days of people spending hours working on their cars with their tools on a warm Saturday afternoon may be in the beginning phase of being numbered. How many of us rebuild and add parts to our laptops on the weekend? Also, consider that Apple, for example, makes their products in such a fashion that no consumer can make changes on their own and that it has to be sent to one of their tech specialists for help. Will this be a ‘smart’ way to manufacture a car? And you thought customer service was slow when you asked questions about your laptop. What happens when your car breaks down in the middle of a snow storm out of cellular range in the mountains?

On the other hand, pollution from gas would be greatly reduced with the popularity of reliable and, let’s face it, cool looking electric cars (Yes Prius, I’m looking down at you). Fisker, Tesla, BMW and others are designing sleek cars of the future, even if their concepts are just for the wealthy at this point. Plus, iPads, tablets and smart phones continue to sell with wild popularity, so these prototypes are likely here to stay for the time being.

However, the malfunctioning cooling fan of a particular electric model does need to be resolved, and fast, if the makers of the Fisker Karma intend to gain any trust with the American people. Fires and cars do not mix!

Hybrids seem to be the realistic “next car” of the here and now, ranging from the 2013 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid to the stunning BMW i8 from “Ghost Protocol.” According to Manuel Sattig, the lead man of Communications for the i8 concept, said this car will premiere to the world in the very near future. “I can actually promise you that 80% of what you see here will be on the streets at the beginning of 2014 and you can buy it.”

I wonder what Billy Joel has to say about all this?

Posted on March 7, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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