How many 'innovations' nowadays are of actual practical use?
Every vehicle that comes out on the market comes with a slew of new features to impress its customers and stay ahead of the curve. Every new car that launches somehow manages to bring a segment-first feature to the table. Sometimes it's revolutionary, and other times, not so much. With competition boiling to an extreme, especially in segments like compact SUVs, a company is obliged to bring something new to the table.
But every once in a while a company drops an innovation into the market that makes you go "Wow, how come no one has thought of that?". That is the kind of innovation that could do with a little more oomph in the markets today.
Why So Much Tech?
Screens, GUI, AI are all the craze in the new models that roll out today. This is especially true higher up the price spectrum. The technology that these cars have under their skin is mind-boggling. While the tech is well appreciated when bought, but give it a few years, and your tech seems like stone-age compared to the new one on the market. Just take a look at the GLC from four years ago. The materials still look exquisite, and so does the layout. But what takes the limelight is the infotainment display. And sadly, that sole factor screams out the era it's from.
Let me remind you that this vehicle started at 50.7 lakhs (ex-showroom, Pune) back in 2016. The car would still feel like its worth that much, it would still drive like a Mercedes, but go to change the radio station, and you would question the price point of this car. Such is the rapid development of technology. If your phone gets old, you can change it. But here is the thing, cars last way longer than phones, so you can't just change the car for the infotainment. With brands giving more and more control to these screens and making them even bigger, they are inadvertently stamping the year of manufacture at the centre of the car.
Remove that screen and that dashboard is timeless a true masterpiece. If the entire dashboard is a screen, how can we say this 5 years down the line for the current-gen cars? This is more of an issue when you realise that most of the extra money we are paying over the old generation model nowadays go to the tech inside our cars.
Smart Innovation, More Of It Please
Now that I have elaborated the direction that the R&D seems to be heading in, allow me to give you an idea of what I am talking about. Honda is not very known for pioneering innovation in the scooter market, which the Activa has been dominating for quite some time. But the silent start function that they had introduced with the BS6 Activa is the kind of innovation I like seeing. For the average user, that might be of incredible use, especially if they happen to do late night or early morning commutes.
Tata is another company that focuses on daily use. The 90-degree opening doors in the Altroz is not for daily usage, as grabbing the door handle is impossible, but when a large item has to be fit at the back, or a for person that needs a large aperture for ingress and egress, it can come in very handy. Their glovebox designs are another example of this. Even Maruti Suzuki's mild-hybrid system is smart innovation. Innovation need not mean invention.
Remote climate control is something that is great in warmer regions such as ours, it's something I can see myself using daily. Radar activated emergency braking is a boon for foggy areas with low visibility. One last example I would be providing is the turn signal activated side cameras. This is mainly used by Hyundai-Kia-Genesis cars in the USA and Europe. Providing a visual on the blind spots while changing lanes is a great innovation that will used by consumers all the time.
The industry is heading in a direction which creates problems and solves it in the facelift. Most of these hindrances are coming due to the large influx of technology in these cars. While technology is imperative today, it need not be the only thing that makes a car stand out.
With the advent of electric cars, this point is carried further, with more and more gizmos. All of this focus on tech has caused a declination in innovations that actually matter, innovations that we will use in our daily life and appreciate. So, next time when you are around your car, or in a showroom, just think, how much of the features will you be using daily? I will leave you with that question for your perusal.