Car manufacturers are desperate to find some way to attract the disinterested younger generation back to the road. According to NPR, millennials are getting their licenses and buying cars later and later in recent years, and the car companies are convinced that one leading cause for the drop-off is the lack of engagement and understanding. “I’m not sure that any car company truly understands this next generation of car buyers,” says John McFarland, a director at General Motors.
In order to re-engage with youth culture, car companies are looking to the features of portable electronics to spice up their vehicles. We have already seen traces of these implementations, such as voice control for phone calls, radio and GPS, but Volkswagen wants to take this idea a step further. “We can make the car that’s becoming part of your digital life,” says Chuhee Lee, the deputy director at Volkswagen’s Electronic Research Lab.
Lee compares his vision for new cars to Siri on iOS, able to intelligently interact with the systems that surround it and integrate itself into your daily life in a more meaningful way. For example, the Audi S7, a car from Volkswagen’s high-end subsidiary, comes with “a thermal camera to provide night vision.” These high-tech advances have already begun to make their way into modern cars.
The most exciting proposition in this story is the idea that when you finally decide to trade in your car, you get to keep the data the car collected while you owned it and transfer your preferences to your next purchase.
As NPR points out, the cost is still a bit steep for most 20-somethings to reconsider taking the plunge on car ownership. A thermal camera is a fascinating addition, but the Audi S7 currently runs for $80,000. As the technology becomes more affordable, and as automakers become more frantic, intelligent cars might not be too far behind self-driving cars.