The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Infotainment Systems
Posted by: Lydia on 2/01/2018
Cars have always been a triumph of technology. Today, this is more true than ever. While the steering wheel and seats may look the same, automobile technology in 2018 is a world away from even a decade ago.
This is very apparent when it comes to the area of infotainment systems. Some motorists love them, others loathe them, and many people feel they don’t totally understand the pros and cons. If you’re reading this, odds are good that you’re looking to learn a little more about these systems in-depth.
Here’s a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of an infotainment setup in your car.
First off, what’s meant by “infotainment system”? The term is used to describe entertainment (think video players, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and WiFi), in-car communications, and data the driver views on a dashboard screen that offers media, radio and navigation functions.
Today’s vehicles have many types of infotainment systems, each with their own name, such as Ford’s Sync or GM’s MyLink. These systems can do everything from showing maps or texts from a synced phone, to displaying the backup camera or radio station details.
Obviously, these functions are a major part of “the good” of infotainment systems. They can help make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable, from GPS navigation and hands-free voice control functions, to providing data about your fuel and other vitals of your car.
Infotainment systems have changed the way we drive, making quick trips easier and longer drives more fun, especially when it comes to entertaining younger passengers. Beyond this, the ease of use of an infotainment system can also take away the intimidation factor of driving. This can greatly help new motorists become comfortable when learning to drive.
Infotainment systems can also end up being a pain that ruins a Sunday drive. While the tech and innovations we’ve seen in our cars over the years are really wonderful, sometimes too much tech can be a bad thing. Occasionally, a motorist wants nothing more than an old-fashioned driving experience - the feeling of their hands on the wheel and the sound of the engine. Too much tech can diminish the emphasis on a driver’s skill, and end up being the very kind of distraction that we’re seeking to take a break from. Even passengers can miss a lot of great landmarks by looking at a screen instead of out the window.
Constantly having to fidget with buttons and settings can spoil the moment. It’s even worse if your GPS just won’t shut up, and a voice that sounds like Morgan Freeman keeps telling you to “turn left at the railway” when there are no train tracks around. For purists who really love a straightforward approach to driving, no infotainment setup will win them away from what they feel is a simple but perfect way of driving.
Tech is great when it works, but when it doesn’t, it can do more than ruin your Sunday drive. Because today’s cars are so technologically advanced, there is more time and expense involved in fixing them. It can also mean the car spends far longer in the shop if mechanics have to send away for a part.
You may even need to send away your car. The skills required to navigate the electronics of an infotainment system are not found in every suburban mechanic. If you have only one vehicle, losing your car for a long span of time can be really annoying. It can also be extra frustrating when it’s not even due to a major engine or transmission problem, but simply your infotainment system going haywire.
These cases may be rare - most popular manufacturers will be able to provide local and (reasonably) quick support - but it’s something to keep in mind.
But the ugliest aspect of infotainment systems relates to safety concerns. The interactivity of infotainment systems is what makes them amazing - and also capable of distracting the driver from the road.
It’s not just a concern about what’s happening on the front dashboard, either - rear TVs and gaming systems are also an issue.
This is a problem not only for you as a driver, but for the motoring population at large. It's a sad reality of driving that you can be doing everything right and still be in an accident through no fault of your own. Accidents can happen due to sheer bad luck, of course, but adding in more gadgets that can potentially distract motorists is a risk many Australians remain concerned about.
As a result, local laws tend to err on the side of caution. This can mean some Australian infotainment systems don’t offer the exact same features or services as ones overseas. This can be frustrating, but is done for a good reason: the annual economic cost of road crashes in Australia is estimated at $27 billion a year.
Infotainment systems are one of many modern tech solutions for your car. Many motorists find them hard to be without once they’ve had a taste. Others feel they can take them or leave them. Your vehicle preferences are personal, and only you can decide whether an infotainment system is right for you.
Fortunately, though, since almost every car today comes with an interactive system - and also the chance to disable it if you don’t like it - it’s easy to preview an infotainment setup if you’ve never tried one before. Then you’ll be able to decide for yourself whether you join the lovers or the haters of infotainment systems.
What’s your view on infotainment systems? Let us know in the comments below: