Five Cars with Social Media Plugins
Because the economy is front and center in the Presidential campaign, we will be inundated with economic news until the election. Last Friday for example, the Dow plummeted after earnings reports from Microsoft and McDonalds, as well as the now-infamous early release of Google's report. But while much of that economic data is troubling, it's important to remember that technology is in a state of flux.
Up until recently, computers were learning how to perform functions that had previously been done without computers - like filing and dissecting data. Now, instead of emulating our tasks, technology is beginning to engineer our behavior, which will likely lead to a whole new boom in the near future. A great example of this is the way that social media is moving into the dashboards of our cars. For example:
The Honda Accord now features social media connection through its touch screen in the center of the dash. The commercial advertises the text-on-the-go function, but the touch-screen provides the foundation for more involved plug-ins as well.
Although not yet a production car, the Ford Evos concept was imagined as the socially networked car of the future. With plugins that will allow drivers to perform common social media functions - like likes, shares, and checkins - while on the go, the Evos is a next-generation car for the next generation.
Mercedes is planning to bring a telematic system to its cars, which it claims will enable drivers to interact with Facebook, Yelp, and other popular social media services while they're driving. This system will initially be available in the SLK Roadsters, likely as part of a strategy to court younger buyers.
The OnStar system available in every Cadillac and most other GM cars is going to bring a version of social media into the car by allowing drivers to access Facebook, as well as having their Twitter feeds read aloud to them by the OnStar system.
Toyota's Entune system includes a whole host of social media apps, including a friend-finding function that will notify users when one of their friends is in the same area. The system is aimed at younger, more social buyers and is planned to roll out extensively over the next couple of years.
Of course, while this has fantastic economic potential, technological progress is always a two-edged sword. All this functionality could potentially enable cars to track driving performance and create a way for good drivers to defend getting cheap car insurance from their carriers. But many analysts and regulators - not to mention the underwriters who design coverage - worry that the imposition of social media on the driving experience is a recipe for disaster.
The federal government has spent billions, and law enforcement at the city and county levels have spent billions more, trying to get drivers to stop talking and texting on their cell phones. What will happen when the whole car becomes a distraction is anybody's guess.