In the course of my work which takes me to just about every corner of the globe, I see many aspects of a phenomena which I am just beginning to understand. Our modern technology has achieved a degree of sophistication beyond our wildest dreams, but this technology has exacted a pretty heavy price.
We live in an age of anxiety and a time of stress. With all our sophistication, we are in fact the victims of our own technological strength. We are the victims of shock – of future shock.
Orson Welles, Future Shock, 1972, as he is departing Pan Am flight 341, smoking a cigar, going through the airport terminal.
Fast forward forty-eight years and there are still people saying the same thing. Too much change in too little time unnerves certain people. For others, they can’t get enough technology.
Technology feeds on knowledge and knowledge expands at a phenomenal rate.
My brother-in-law, Kevin, was supposed to meet me after the Lincoln MKX product review. Kevin got to the event early and the Ford folks let him come in and watch the product presentation from the back.
I would describe Kevin as East Coast provincial. He grew up near the Main Line, outside Philadelphia, PA. Kevin married his high school sweetheart and owns a business investment company. Kevin has only owned Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and each new car he buys he has to call me to talk to me about the pros and cons.
We finish up the product overview and I’m bracing myself for the deluge I’m about to get from Kevin because he sat through an hour briefing about a Lincoln crossover.
I get in the car and Kevin turns to me and says, “That was the most interesting meeting I have been to in years.” Really? I’m looking for sarcasm in his face. I see none. Kevin goes on, “The only thing I see as a consumer are the snazzy highly produced commercials and the marketing come-ons in the newspapers.”
Nothing is permanent anymore. Worlds collide. What intrigued my brother-in-law about this meeting? “These people, Kevin says, “Elaine Bannon, the Chief Engineer for Ford, they are the best of the best. They are the people that other people aspire to be. You get to meet with them and listen to them talk about the cars that they have designed.”
Unbeknownst to Kevin, he is the target audience for a Lincoln. He is in the right financial bracket and right age group to buy a Lincoln. And yet, he never has. So, what does he think of the Lincoln and what the “best of the best” have to say about this Lincoln?
Kevin is still biased towards the handling of the BMW 328 he owns, but to be fair he has never driven a Lincoln. What he loved about the car was the technology. “I wouldn’t buy a car without i-phone compatibility now. My BMW doesn’t have it and I think they are behind the times.”
Kevin is not driving a car, he is driving technology. As soon as we get in the car he brings up the NAV system and that is how we find our way to his Mother’s new house. Every few minutes, in between chatting, he is calling someone and talking to them through his bluetooth.
I have argued that most of this technology is fine, but will people sixty and over really use it? Yes, they will. And they won’t buy a car without it. Kevin explained it to me, “It’s like in the movie Future Shock, when they use the term “time concise”.
What is time concise? He explains, “What feels like five years to a thirty year old feels like one year to people my age. Time becomes concise.” In the book Future Shock they’re not sure why it happens, whether it is because the metabolic rate change or because of the percentage of one’s life lived.
The book uses the example of a fifty-year old Father telling his 15 year-old son that he will have to wait two more years before he can own a car. That interval of 730 days represents only four percent of the Father’s life, while it represents thirteen percent of the Son’s life.
What does that mean for technology?
That means it is more important to get a car right if you are selling it to the older generation. The older generation doesn’t change cars as often as the younger generation. Time goes by too fast to be changing your car every couple years, unless you don’t like the car, or another manufacturer has better technology they are bringing out.
Does a warranty play any part in the decision making?
Kevin thinks so. “All Lincoln would have to do to get more sales is offer a ten year/100,000 warranty. Before ten years was a lifetime, but in ten years that might be one of my last cars and that time will go really fast.”
Hyundai and Kia didn’t start offering ten year and 100,000 warranty because they figured this out. They did it because there were cars before them, such as the Yugo, that gave new cars from foreign countries a bad name. It was a way for Hyundai and Kia to change their course, to make a statement. And yet Hyundai has an older age average than they originally thought would buy the car.
Technology is changing faster than any of us thought it would. That scares some people. In order to keep these people from opting out, copping out or vegetating until death car companies are going to have to stay on top of technology and bring it forward as quickly as they can. They will have to integrate it seamlessly so that the distraction to the driver is minimal.
It will be a balancing act between multi-tasking of generations. A younger person may be good at talking on a hands free phone, but they are not experts at driving in traffic.
For that age group there is MyKey which is designed to allow parents to encourage teenagers to drive safely and more fuel efficiently, and increase seat belt usage. The standard MyKey feature allows owners to designate keys that can limit the vehicles top speed and audio volume.
Middle aged folks are better at driving than teenagers, but don’t have the expertise of multi-tasking technology. How many times have you heard a fifty year old say that they were going to get their twelve year old to show them how to work a piece of technology?
For that age group there is Adaptive cruise control which allows the driver to set the vehicles cruising speed, using advanced radar technology to monitor traffic ahead and scan for slower vehicles. The system slows the vehicle to adapt for traffic conditions and maintain the preset distance between vehicles. Once traffic clears, the set speed returns.
And then you have the Senior citizens that are losing their agility, even the ability to turn their necks from side to side, and are just learning how to use technology. Car companies are bringing out technology so that the car will be more aware, so that the driver doesn’t have to be.
Along with Adaptive cruise control senior citizens can utilize Blind Spot Information System (BLIS). BLIS is a cross-traffic alert feature that can help detect vehicles in blind spots during normal driving and traffic approaching from the sides when reversing out of parking spots.
It will be a balancing act between what is available and what belongs in a car. It will be a balancing act between what technology is in a car for safety, perceived safety and the technology that could put us in harms way.
Today is Future Shock.