I recently made a troubling discovery. Samsung, noted manufacturer of telephones the size of a license plate, is now producing a refrigerator with Twitter. Let me repeat that for those of you who merely skim my articles (Hi, mom!). Samsung manufacturers a refrigerator with Twitter.
The refrigerator’s screen (which also includes other similarly useless apps) is located just above where you get ice. This is highly convenient. Primarily, it’s convenient for Samsung, who will gladly replace the screen for thousands of dollars when you get it wet. But it’s also convenient for you, the refrigerator operator, since it allows you to get ice and tweet: I just got ice. #cold #drink #icerocks2013 #yourdrinkiswarmerthanmine
I know what you’re thinking: Is this going to be about cars? And the answer is: only sort of. At this point, you’re more than forgiven if you’d rather see what Sajeev has written today. (Bye, mom!)
The theme of all this is that technology is coming, whether you like it or not. I still remember, years ago, thinking “yeah, right!” when I heard they were going to put cameras in cell phones. Now, I can use my phone to take a photo of my iced drink, tweet the photo, and then re-tweet it using my refrigerator. (No, I have no idea how Twitter works.)
Of course, technology’s ever-expanding reach is also affecting modern cars. The best example of this is Toyota’s Entune navigation system, which you can now use to get movie reviews, buy movie tickets, and make restaurant reservations. According to Toyota, this does not lead to distracted driving, an assertion which is apparently believed by the NHTSA and no one else.
Hyundai Blue Link offers a far creepier take on infotainment. Yes, you can do the normal stuff, like use Pandora and re-tweet your twitters (or something). But you can also set up a geographical perimeter and receive text messages every time the car leaves it. This is a wonderful idea pitched as a benefit to families with young drivers, though it will almost exclusively be used by families with cheating spouses.
Blue Link can also send you a text message every time the car exceeds a certain speed. This one actually is brilliant, since it allows you to confront your spouse about where he went and how fast he got there. Imagine the court transcript: “Defendant was tracked to Stacy’s home on Thursday, May 9, using Hyundai Blue Link. Defendant travelled there at 87 miles per hour.” #busted!!
Beyond infotainment, we have to contend with new technology in other areas. Take, for example, BMW’s latest turn signal mechanism. Here’s how it works: you press the signal. It stays on, but pops back into the normal position. So you press it the other way to cancel it, which causes the other signal to turn on. Eventually, you’re killed in a fiery crash as you try and figure out how the hell the turn signal works. BMW is not totally opposed to this, since it means you can no longer complain on the JD Power surveys.
Personally, I’m of the belief that we don’t really need any new technology in the world of turn signals. That’s because every car in the history of the automobile has used pretty much the same system, and it works quite well. But there’s one new feature that’s really gotten me excited: Honda LaneWatch. Although Alex L. Dykes isn’t a fan, I’m here to provide a counterpoint.
LaneWatch is standard on all Accords above the EX trim level, which is all the Accords you’d buy, because you’re not a cheap bastard, am I right? Here’s how it works: first, you press the right turn signal. Immediately afterwards, a camera turns on that displays literally every single thing on the right side of your vehicle. Seriously: when I’m in Atlanta heading north, the camera shows the next lane, the neighborhood to my right, the next county, and – if I’m on a slight incline – most of the Atlantic Ocean.
I recently had a Honda Accord press car with LaneWatch, and I was so impressed by the feature that I didn’t use the passenger mirror once throughout the entirety of my time with the car. This is pretty cool: a camera that completely takes the place of a side-view mirror. Concept cars have teased the idea for years, but here I was actually experiencing it in a $25,000 Honda Accord!
Where LaneWatch does become gimmicky is that you can turn it on and monitor things without the turn signal activated. While this can be enjoyable, it’s possibly the only thing more distracting than using your touchscreen to buy movie tickets. Still, when used for its intended purpose, LaneWatch is tremendously helpful. The picture’s clear, it’s aimed exactly where you want, and – to help you decide if it’s safe to change lanes – it even displays three different on-screen lines: Green, Yellow, and BMW Driver.
When I gave back the Accord and returned to my LaneWatch-less SUV, I began to realize just how much technology is missing from my life. So I did the only rational thing I could think of: I drove straight to the store and joined the 21st century. And I love it. This message was sent from my refrigerator.
Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.