[Ed: The above video is not intended as a specific example of the problems we faced, but a general illustration of the wider issue]
While on a junket for the Hyundai Veloster I was treated to yet another instance of The Most Infuriating Thing About New Cars – the lack of any decent way to connect your iPod to the in-car entertainment system.
As TTAC Editor-In-Chief Ed Niedermeyer and I toured Oregon’s various scenic byways in the newest Hyundai, our musical selections were repeatedly interrupted due various errors, whereby Ed’s iPhone was unable to sync, refused to completely sync, or randomly re-synced. Our attempts at listening to the new Bon Iver album, or Burn After Rolling (the listenable mixtape made by limp-dick rapper Wiz Khalifa) were interrupted by a blast from XM’s pop station, as the iPod integration took a giant shit on us. Nothing spoils the conversation like having your ambient rock or gangsta rap interrupted by Katy Perry or Lady Gaga.
In the pre-USB port days, there were two options – you could use an “iTrip”, a crude device that plugged into a cigarette lighter and used a small radio transmitter to broadcast your music over a dormant frequency. Tuning your radio to said frequency allowed you to have your own private radio station, although it was frequently interrupted by transmissions from competing commercial stations, especially on road trips where frequencies changed every so often.
The other option was the auxiliary port – a 3.5 mm audio jack that plugged into the car stereo and allowed you to control your iPod without any aural interruptions like an iTrip. The only problem is that these were extremely rare in the pre-USB era, and have failed to become ubiquitous.
My guess is that the USB/touch-screen integration is a response to fears of possible litigation via crashes caused by distracted drivers, who could ostensibly fiddle with their iPods while it’s plugged in to the auxiliary port. BMW once offered an iPod integration system that forced you to create pre-made playlists and didn’t allow for any browsing of the music library, which I suspect was done for this reason.
The big problem is that most iPod integration systems are varying degrees of garbage. Currently, Ford’s SYNC system is the worst, despite its ubiquity, and every Ford product I review, I try and bash it. I would stop, but I’ve yet to have a SYNC system that works properly, without being a massive distraction and malfunctioning on multiple occasions. None of my passengers, from my technologically savvy 18-year-old brother, to my own friends (who are supposed to be “connected”, “plugged-in” Gen-Y types) can figure it out, and if they do, they inevitably get frustrated with the confusing menus, lack of a “back” button (a crucial feature when your iPod has 10,000 songs and you don’t want to scroll through endless menus to find one damn song) and the occasional disconnection because “SYNC failed to connect to your portable audio device”.
For all the marketing pap about reaching out to a generation of buyers who care less and less about cars, the one thing the OEMs need to do is the one thing they are constantly fucking up. For Gen-Y, the most important part of the driving experience has nothing to do with dynamic. They just want to listen to music painlessly. And not get violated at the gas pump . Being able to drive something with a bit of panache isn’t a bad thing either.
Hyundai managed a gentleman’s C on those criteria. Let’s see who gets an A+.