I spent yesterday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. This year, it was a little different; while there are still two press days, almost all of the car reveals were on Monday. So I got there at 6:00 a.m. and got out at 7:00 p.m. I think these things on the bottoms of my legs are my feet, but I'm not absolutely sure.
Each year, the automakers always seem to have a theme, based on what the public seems to want. Sometimes it's horsepower; more often recently it has been fuel economy. The 2011 Detroit show was all about connectivity, and not always the type where you're connecting with the road.
Just about every vehicle that came out had some sort of computer screen, computer hookup, or social media connectivity built into it. Never mind just being able to synch your phone with Bluetooth or plug in your iPod. There were cars - some of them concepts, others production - that would find nearby movie theaters and give you the ratings on the films, let you Skype through a pad built into the seat, or page through a giant LED screen that was part of the dash.
There was even one - I think it was Hyundai - that would pinpoint your position and, through matching screens in other vehicles, let your friends know exactly where you were. Like instant messaging, except that your little dot came up on a map and moved around. I remember when people warned us about Big Brother stuff like that, and now people want to buy it.
Okay, I'm older than most of the people the automakers are targeting with this stuff. In fact, I feel like I'm adding twenty years to my age just by complaining about it. But on one hand, we have NHTSA and other government agencies mandating airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, rollover crash standards and other items that are meant to keep us alive - and on the other hand, we're stuffing these cars full of electronic gadgets that, by their very nature, require you to take your eyes off the road or take your concentration away from driving.
I realize that younger drivers want connectivity and the automakers are feeding that desire, just as they fed my generation's desire for horsepower and styling and handling. But you can't have it both ways. The automakers made the cars safer - and now they're falling over themselves to offer vehicles that are not.
My husband wryly commented that if he's in his car and he wants to connect with someone, he drives to that person's house, knocks on the door, and sits down and has a conversation with him. He calls it FaceLook.