I LOVE TECHNOLOGY as much as the next person. But sooner or later we're going to find out that we have sensory overload in our automobiles.
On April 22 and 23 in Stuttgart, Automotive News Europe held a telematics conference. Although it was a great success, I must admit that there has to be more discussion of how much is too much.
In the United States, there is constant debate about cell phones in automobiles. Some states have banned drivers from using hand-held phones.
I have always thought that the fellow munching on a Big Mac and cruising the interstate at high speed is as big a danger - if not bigger - as the fellow on the cell phone.
But tomorrow's plans are even greater. And I'll be the first to admit that most of the new technology will be seamless.
Someone once told me that the best computing was invisible to the user.
Certainly most of the computing power in an automobile is invisible to the driver and simply makes the car work better.
Drivers are never aware of the huge job done by their engine controls; they keep the engine running smoothly, cleanly and efficiently for hours, making thousands of adjustments every second.
Meanwhile, the HVAC - heating, ventilation and air conditioning - system is adjusting the mixture of warm and cool air to keep the cockpit temperature just right for the driver and passengers. Again, the driver never knows how busy the computer is.
Things get dicey only when technology and telematics intrude into the driver's consciousness.
It's going to be very difficult to tell US drivers that they can't use some great piece of technology while they're driving, that they have to pull over and stop first.
I think the automobile industry has realized that telematics is not going to be the cash cow that it seemed a couple of years ago. Some telematics devices are struggling to survive.
Car owners don't want to pay a lot of money every month for some of the newest technology. Auto companies will need more realistic goals.
Telematics is here to stay. The only debate will be how much.