Automotive Customization: The Past, or the Future?

My friend Tyler and I were just going for a cruise in his new 2016 Ford Focus, and I was truly astonished by one of this car’s very unique and innovative features: the stereo. The stereo is the control unit for this entire car’s electronics system, and is completely built into the dashboard.

If he wants to install new speakers, subwoofers, or a CB radio, then he would need to take apart the entire dashboard in order to reach the back of the head unit where the connections are. On most older cars, stereos and head units are universally interchangeable, but these newer vehicles’ electronics are so complex that they have become almost entirely model specific and non-interchangeable.

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It appears that car companies are not making their cars very user friendly in terms of repairs and customization. All of the wires and connections are covered and concealed by plastic panels that are designed so flush that you’ll break most of the mounting clips just trying to remove them. Even when you open the hood of most modern cars, you will have to remove a multitude of plastic covers and panels just to get to the engine. The manufacturers do not want you to see coil packs, valve covers, or air filters, even though some consumers may prefer to see these features.

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We both have CB radios installed in our vehicles, which I’ve found to be very useful. For quite a while now, I’ve been trying to figure out why people stopped using them, but the product geniuses over at Honda Headquarters seem to be asking themselves the same question.  This article explains how many car companies are coming up with new features for their latest products. Honda has introduced a new vehicle-to-vehicle communication system, very similar to the CB radios of the past, will help drivers to better communicate with one another on the road.

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As I started to do more research on the latest automotive innovations, I realized that the car manufacturers are packing so many features into these vehicles that they do not necessarily require as much customization as they may have in the past. Vehicles are coming out of the factory with 9-speaker surround sound systems, back-up cameras, factory subwoofers, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, and stereos with wireless Bluetooth capability.

Car companies do not want us to modify their vehicles: they want to engineer a product that appeals to our every desire as the consumer. As a result of this, vehicles have also become harder to customize due to the car companies’ tendency to move towards modern complexity – which means putting an emphasis on everything that is digital and plastic, as opposed to steel and mechanical. Rat rods could become extinct someday!

 

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The Evolution of the Automotive Industry: Cars, Cabs, or Computers?

Tom Voelk of the New York Times has published a very interesting article in the New York Times regarding new technological and sociological advancements in the automotive industry.

At the Los Angeles AutoMobility Auto Show, dozens of companies promoted their new upcoming automotive designs and services. Over the past fifty years, car companies have focused on style, performance, aesthetics, and fuel efficiency in the designs of their vehicles; however, these companies are moving toward new innovative ways to market their products to potential consumers.

The key news is that the automotive industry is overhauling its entire business model in order to keep up with our quickly changing needs.  Car companies are moving away from the idea of the personal vehicle, and moving toward new goals such as ride share services, fleet vehicles, and self driving cars.

Many of the companies that were present at the AutoMobility Auto Show were not even car manufacturers at all. Cars are slowly becoming supercomputers on wheels, and as a result, many more technology companies are getting involved with the industry, such as Garmin, Cisco, Intel, and Argus Cyber Security. The entire automotive industry will be seeing more changes over the next five years than it has experienced in five decades. Will self-driving cars and ride sharing be the way of the future, or will personal vehicles triumph as the leaders of style and performance?

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