The field of consumer electronics is the most apt to experiment with new technology. The devices they create are relatively inexpensive and the risk is relatively small to both the consumer as well as the manufacturer. If new products, coupled with new technology fail, it is quickly forgotten and seldom held against them. However, the most unlikely candidate for experimental technology is the automotive industry. Yet this is where we find the next level of serious innovation.
General Motors EN-V
Imagine you could slap an exo-skeleton onto a Segway scooter and drive it around town in the throngs of regular road traffic. If your imagination served you well then you would find yourself cruising through the city streets in the General Motors EN-V. The name stands for “Electric Network Vehicle” and even though it may lack the panache of a Tesla Roadster this little pod makes up for its lack of sexy lines with new gadgets for the techies. The vehicle can rotate 360 degrees, can park itself, and you can summon it via your phone…you are almost irrelevant. We may be seeing the driving experience transforming into a friendly and autonomous user interface versus the hands-on offensive attitude utilized since the invention of the automobile. “Driving” as we know may be rapidly being redefined.
Audi’s new Heads Up Display
Not every manufacturer has taken the giant leap into redesigning its vehicles. Audi has implemented new technologies under the the skin of more traditional looking vehicles. Audi has introduced a new Heads Up Display (HUD) that appears to be nearly a 3-D hologram. Most of the HUD’s to date were not friendly to the eyes and depending on the driver’s height the read-outs could either be useful or completely illegible. Audi has corrected this problem by making the display adjustable to the driver’s height and field of vision. TFT projection in standard RGB (Red, Green, Blue) becomes the difference between a home run and a grand slam.
Tesla Roadster 2012
The 2012 Tesla Roadster looks more aggressive than ever. Instead of the standard single color scheme the two-tone orange and white layout takes every line and curve of the body and slapped the viewer square across the cheek. The king of electric cars created earlier models that had looked like a 15 year-old’s rendition of a custom Lotus Elise drawn with Crayola crayons. But not this year. With over 100 miles per charge and neck-breaking acceleration Tesla’s job here is complete.
The Ford “MyTouch”
Its not often that Ford cars ever fall into direct competition with, well, any new car technology. But that is changing so fast that I feel out of sorts; almost as if I had entered the Twilight Zone. Ford has taken the liberty of incorporating the “MyFord Touch” display that not only handles music settings and GPS navigation with ease but is just waiting for any one of your 10,000 voice commands. Add to that the customizable screen and they may have bridged the gap with a complete user interface with minimal distraction in driving. I spent a few minutes wondering how they did it. How did they beat Mercedes and BMW to the punch? Then I snapped out of it. Who cares? It’s here and I want it now! I wonder if the ambient light setting has a selection for “Blast me out of my boots with a lightning bolt blue”.