Why car tech is 4 years out of date

aNewDomain.net – As car manufacturers embed new technologies into their cars, drivers are wondering why some of this new technology seems curiously out of date. For instance, the music system in Ford’s latest vehicles has only a 10GB hard drive for storing music.

car tech

Image Credit Wiki Commons

The fact is most cars are years behind the latest technology, mainly because technology changes so quickly and car production cycles are very slow.

“The iPhone was introduced in 2007. The cars being sold in 2012 and 2013 were just being planned then,” said Scott Fosgard, a spokesman for infotainment systems at General Motors, in ComputerWorld. He added that the entire automobile industry has been shocked by the speed with which technology has permeated its ranks. In 2007 infotainment systems ranked 25th on GM customers’ wish lists, while today it is fourth on the list.

The problem lies in the automotive industry’s long production cycle, which is typically five to seven years, which in technology years could arguably be about 10 to 14 years. Plus, most car companies don’t allow owners to upgrade a car’s hardware, with the exception of some high end cars from Mercedes-Benz and Tesla. And when upgrades are allowed for infotainment systems, drivers often have to bring their cars to the dealers to do it.

“We have arrived at a point where the pace of technological advancement – how fast automakers and suppliers can make their products better – has vastly outstripped their own manufacturing abilities to keep up,” says Automotive News.

Plus, the automobile industry has to contend with government reliability standards and its own standards. Consumer electronics have lower standards of temperatures and shock resistance then electronics in cars

“Inside your vehicle, technology has to be able to live from 70 degrees centigrade to minus 40,” said Jim Buczkowski, a Henry Ford Technical Fellow and director of Electrical and Electronics Systems at Ford Research and Innovation, in ComputerWorld. “Your phone and computers don’t have to meet those requirements. It does wind up costing us more to meet those specs, too.”

Yet in the coming years, cars will allow their navigation systems and map information to be upgraded through wireless connectivity, Koslowski said. GM announced that its 2014 cars will have a 4G LTE connection next year. Yet a potential danger for these connected cars is that even 4G LTE may become outdated in the coming years. Ford is taking a different approach that may help its cars avoid obsolescence by collaborating with Microsoft for its Sync system, which works through the driver’s smartphone and other devices.

“That’s going to really drive further trends in the auto industry where you’ll probably see less and less hardware in the car, at least from a data storage perspective,” Koslowski said. “Ford SYNC … gives you access to the Amazon cloud to download your digital content directly to your car over your stereo.”

Still, automotive manufacturers may face a losing battle when trying to keep pace with the rapid rate of growth in technology, says Automotive News. “The auto industry must find the discipline to stick to planned product intervention schedules or risk sacrificing their profitability by chasing tomorrow’s latest and greatest advancement,” says the website.

Chandler Harris
Chandler Harris is a freelance business and technology writer based in Silicon Valley and contributor at aNewDomain.net. He has written for Entrepreneur, InformationWeek, San Jose Magazine, Government Technology, Public CIO, AllBusiness.com, U.S. Banker and the San Jose Business Journal.
Chandler Harris
Tags: Gadgets & Devices,Technology