Monday, July 29, 2013

1206 Customize or Perish

1206 Customize or Perish

“Customizing” a car used to mean putting in chrome tailpipes and such; maybe darkening the windows and putting fake zebra skin covers on the front seat.

Then, there were the lowriders.   Putting tiny wheels on huge cars and installing little lifters that made the body bounce (as if 20th century springs and shocks weren’t bouncy enough.)

A lot of that stuff has gone to the junkyards and been converted into useful scrap but doesn’t mean the end of car customization.

Today, that can-do American spirit is alive and well in small auto shops in far off places.  But this time, it’s not specially designed grilles and day-glo purple paint jobs.

No, indeed.  These people are retrofitting retro controls.  They’re ripping out those ridiculous and dangerous touch screens and replacing them with (gasp) push buttons and knobs.

Imagine this:  you’re driving along the 101 in California or the Grand Central Parkway in New York, at the speed limit, of course.  You’re listening to your satellite radio, your GPS is on the touch screen and the interior temperature is 90 degrees.

As you round a curve, you feel a compelling need to turn on the air conditioner.  At one time, that meant keeping your eyes on the road, holding the wheel with one hand and reaching for the A/C controls with the other.

In today’s high tech world, there are no A/C controls.  You have to swap out the GPS and/or the satellite radio on the screen and call up the “climate system.”  Yes, cars have climates, just like the earth.  Bet you never thought about that.

No matter.  On some cars nowadays you can keep both hands on the wheel and speak to your car.  You can say “turn on the air conditioner.”  The car will then reply with a confirming message  “Did you say take me to the airport?”  “No.”  “Did you say “where can I buy shampoo and conditioner?”  “No.”  “Please repeat your command.”  “Turn on the air conditioner.”  “Sorry, not found.”

So much for concentration on driving.

If you don’t have that talking system, you have to push something on the screen to get rid of what’s there and bring up a menu of stuff, then press the appropriate spot to get the controls you want.  Half the time, the thing doesn’t respond, so you press it again.  Well, not pressing, really.  More like when you might finger jab someone during an argument.

So much for concentrating on driving, unless, of course, you already have hit the guardrail and caused a 47 car pileup.

So, then, what about customization?  This time it’s not chrome pipes, leaping lowriders or purple paint.  This time it’s rip out the stupid touch screen and install controls for the radio, heater and air conditioner.  Make them big enough to work by feel. Destroy the GPS, it’s no good, anyway.  This kind of customizing not fancy. It’s not showy.  But it could save lives -- maybe yours.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2013

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