Monday, October 24, 2011

Why don't Europeans care for Infotainment?

Following on from last week's post about touch screens, Autoblog recently posted an article asking why Europeans don't care about infotainment in their cars. The author seemed genuinely bemused why, when he went to IFA (the European equivalent of the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas), it took actual effort to find any auto manufacturers showing anything in the entertainment market. If you've been to CES you'll know there's an entire hall dedicated to the pursuit of distracted driving where all the manufacturers proudly tout their latest methods to keep you from concentrating on actually driving. But at IFA - nothing. Well - not nothing, but very very little. So why is this, the author of the article asked. I can give you a couple of ideas, but predominantly it's because we Europeans tend to understand that when you get into a car and drive, you need to concentrate on the actual driving of the two ton weapon. I think we have far more interest in the act of driving. Americans, by contrast, seem to be expressing more and more desire to have self-driving cars, wrapped in airbags and lawyers to prevent them from having any personal responsibility for the actual act of driving. As a result we've got iDrive and SYNC and all the other wonderful infotainment systems that are impossible to use on the move because of the fiddly on-screen controls, and the fact that you need to look at the screen to use them. ie. you're not looking at the road. ie. you're not concentrating on driving. Here's the original article. I was as bemused as the original author, but I was bemused at how he couldn't grasp the basic concept that infotainment does not belong in a car: AutoBlog


Kristaps B. said...

I'm baffled by the fact that you constantly come up with new facts that prove Americans being less interested in life and everything.

As a European I can't say I dislike that. It's just that I'm losing confidence in the bright future if I see that stupidity and ignorance can become a trait of a nation, rather than certain individuals scattered around the world with approximately the same density.

Chris said...

It's American car culture more than anything. Muscle cars that go in a straight line and nothing else, NASCAR stuck with 1960's engine technology, and people who genuinely believe that 25mpg is "astonishing". The car culture over here is soul-destroying for anyone who really enjoys cars. It saps the life out of you to see how much they really despise the act of driving and just treat cars as a mundane fact of life. The driving test is designed to prevent you from being able to fail and driving in general is regarded as a right rather than a priveledge.

GBR said...

"figures are flimsy, but a recent study by State Farm showed that 19 percent of U.S. drivers use the internet while behind the wheel"

I hope that isn't the case.

Klaas said...

I've been in quite some countries in the world. India, China, America,... and while I've seen countries where people just seem to be in a contest to drive the most unsafe vehicle or carry insane loads, I must say the worst DRIVING was in America. So many people there seem to not realise that the windows are made of glass so you can look through them. Rather they just have conversations facing each other, play with stuff, read the paper, trim their beard, get some make-up on,... It's incredible. I couldn't believe it.

Paul said...

Sorry Chris, can't completely agree with you here. You seem to conveniently forget that it's the European makes that have introduced features that help you if you're too tired to drive, or drifting into the opposing lane etc. What about the BMW device (can't remember the name) that has the huge knob between the seats that controls everything from the A/C to the radio to connecting your phone to the car.
@Klaas, Americans are the worst drivers??? Really??? Not by a long shot. Try Mexico or China or India my friend.
Now I'm not saying Americans are the best drivers, or that they aren't distracted drivers but it looks, to me, like everyone's anti-American car feelings are blinding them here. Or is it that Europeans are so full of themselves that they are the best at everything? (said with tongue firmly in cheek!) And before I get shot at, no I'm not an American.

Vlad said...

Hi Chris,

I read a lot of good stuff on your site and blog. Thank you very much for all that great information. I don't claim to have become an expert but I can say for sure I know more than just filling the car with gas and drive it (safely).

I live in Europe (Romania) for a change and the latest news just shocked me. It's very possible you've heard it too. They want to make ESP mandatory :| Grim horizon for car lovers.
I do agree to an extent that it's very useful in many situations, but to go as far as impose it on every each car, it's too much. What should one do if they wanted to go for a track day (not that we have this opportunity here :D ).
Would love to hear your opinion on this.

Mystery Girl said...

Come to Utah - worst driving in the world. Makes the Italians look positively civilized. Most Utahans will admit that they text, put on make-up, change lanes - from outside to inside (which doesn't sound bad except there are three full lanes in between) drive through red lights, drive backwards up the freeway when they've missed their exit, oh and my personal favourite getting onto the freeway using the off ramp.Genius!

Chris said...

Vlad: most ESP systems have an override in the car somewhere. Normally a button on the dash or in a menu system. You can still turn it off but it will default back to on each time you start the car.

Vlad said...

Hi Chris,

My mistake. I wrongfully assumed that they'd make ESP a mandatory equipment that you could never turn off, although this could be the next step. Maybe I'm paranoid..
Of course, this would mean that the low-cost cars like Dacia (Renault) Logan will suffer quite a big hit.

Vlad said...

Hi Chris,

I've just stumbled upon this video and remembered your position on the issue presented in it: "Texting and driving", and felt it should be shared widely.