Bob Schumacher, Delphi Electronics & Safety's director of wireless products, neatly summed it up. Kids on long car trips once said, "When are we going to be there?" Now at the end of the journey they say, "Dad, can we stay in the car? The movie's not finished."
He is talking about "infotainment." Global consumer acceptance is still patchy, but the drive to develop new systems is relentless.
The global infotainment market is worth about E24 billion, headed toward E35 billion by 2010.
With the onset of digital TV and non-satellite solutions such as WiFi, for example, films will simply be downloaded into the car.
A brave new world? There is a downside. The car used to be a child's window on the world. OK, boring sometimes, but the passing scene triggered conversation.
Moreover, the young got a sense of topography, and perhaps more importantly, a grounding in road behavior -- early preparation for their own driving future. No such awareness or early lessons in roadcraft await the kids who will bury themselves in yet more audio-visual entertainment.
We lament the mind-numbing games and videos that glue overweight youngsters to screens and headphones at home.
Now, back seats of cars could become simply an extension of that environment. Then isolation from the real world during the next generation's formative years will be near-complete.
So is all lost? Not if the auto industry taps into the educational potential and starts thinking in terms of "infocation" as well as "infotainment."
The industry should start educating car owners and parents about the responsible use of new technologies. Otherwise it may not be long before an opportunist customer, backed by a greedy lawyer, takes the industry to court for failing to issue intellectual health warnings.
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