Carmakers offer plenty of choices, but not the one we need – Android, or iOS. Look on the sticker of your new car and you’ll find a $1,000 to $2,000 option for an entertainment or navigation system that has less capability than your typical smart phone.
Nokia, Blackberry and Motorola have all learned the hard way that apps drive the device and the operating system drives the apps. On the other hand, new vehicles come with closed operating systems and a set of confusing and inconsistent manufacturer supplied apps.
I made two round trips from Florida to New Jersey in the last 60 days. My 2012 RAM 1500 pulled another car on a trailer without slowing down. The truck gets an A for acceleration, braking, comfort and sound system. Garmin navigation is excellent. The entertainment options all work, but the interface is quirky. Turn the knob? Or look for the button on the touch-screen? Big icons let you know you are listening to radio while a tiny font tells you what song is playing. Soon, they will make it illegal to read that tiny font while driving. Get a phone call and you have to wait until the system finishes telling you that you have an inbound call before it will answer.
Driving a Mustang convertible with a 5.0 and 6 speed manual transmission down the Blue Ridge Parkway is so wonderful that even the trooper who pulls you over has to smile. Maybe if I offer him a chance at the wheel I can avoid a ticket.
Of course, he might get a little peeved when the radio tells him his iPhone has too many songs to sync. Everyone gets a chuckle at the ‘Send” and “End” prompts for phone calls. Wasn’t that how cell phones worked in the 90’s? The 5 gig hard drive is there for you to load a personal jukebox. But you can’t load mp3’s or iTunes, you can only rip CD’s. You still buy CD’s, right? Are these cars meant for old people?
Bloomberg Businessweek had a commentary suggesting a startup wizard for new cars. Meanwhile a new iPhone comes with tiny pages containing government required safety messages like, “Don’t hold the power cord in your mouth while you plug it in.” Android and iOS phones and tablets compete on how intuitive they are and how you don’t need a manual. Ford’s Mustang Sync manual is 100 pages. We don’t need a startup wizard. We need auto manufacturers to join this century.
Tonight, I will look through the manual again and see if I can figure out why my phone starts to play music automatically when the car starts. Step on the clutch, start the engine…take out the phone and stop iTunes…release the brake and drive away.