Friday, January 17, 2014

Pre-Mature Audi-vation

Automobiles deploying electronics technology were a big part of Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014.  This is not necessarily a new CES trend, although in past years, it has been more about what aftermarket technology could be installed into a car; audio systems, TV screens, security systems, etc.  This year however, major announcements from largely German auto manufacturers showcased how the automobile is embracing the consumers’ app-ified, always connected, world.

One particular example stood out as “an interesting but not yet really ready for prime time” example; the parking lot demonstration by Audi of their self-parking automobile technology.  Finding a parking spot in a crowded lot, one that you know the car will fit in, and the process of carefully maneuvering into it, is certainly not the most pleasurable part of the automobile experience.  Thus, applying technology to make this more enjoyable for the driver is a valid thought.  However, in this case, the cure may be worse than the ailment.

When the tricked-out Audi and driver enter a parking lot, the driver tells the car to find a spot to park.  The Audi will then obediently find a spot that will accommodate it and stop so the driver can disembark.

However, the driver cannot simply run off to their meeting, shopping, or restaurant date.  

Rather, they must remain nearby and watch the car perform its magic to ensure safety and success for all.  Yes, to enjoy this technology, the driver, who is now standing outside of the car and likely thankful it is not raining, snowing, blowing, or just plain cold outside, must pull their phone out of their pocket or purse, fire up the Audi app, and then press the button to tell the car to go ahead and park itself.  Now can the driver run off to their destination?

No, not quite.  The driver now needs to continue to hold the button on the Audi app on their smartphone being ever vigilant as the car maneuvers back and forth into the parking spot.  Taking a finger off the app’s button will instantly stop the car in its tracks.  It really is sort of magical how the car can move unguided with such precision and instantly stop with the touch of a finger.  However, the driver is likely to grow rather weary of holding the blasted button on the app, on their smart phone, throughout the whole process.

At CES 2014, such technological examples garnered the appropriate “ooo’s and ahhh’s” but at least in Audi’s case, practicality needs to come to the forefront before the “price” of self-parking can be paid by self-parking technology, an app, a button, and the driver’s finger.

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