There are 3 major trade shows taking place in quick succession. CES, the Detroit Auto Show, and SHOT. As a result there are a lot of concept products being pitched.
One of the interesting developments in Detroit is the advent of glass cockpits. We have seen glass cockpits evolve in aviation over the past couple of decades. The days of inertial driven, pressure driven, mechanical gauges are in their sunset. Like the 16″ Naval gun there are just somethings that I am said to see go. More importantly, we will loose the knowledge and capability to produce and maintain them. At some point in the future that loss of knowledge maybe much to our detriment. But that topic is for another discussion.
In Detroit, the engineers have fallen into the trap of technology. They have latched onto a concept and capability and run with it, while forgetting who their users are. By replacing knobs and switches in vehicles with touch screen LCD panels they have created a situation where many users will be unable to operate the vehicles. If they are able to operate them, can they do so safely.
Bayou Renaissance Man has a nice post up with some examples, here.
Of course my mind goes to the dark side of things…what happens when that pesky bug in the O/S shows up and allows the van driving down the road 50 ft ahead of you to slip into the system by the unsecured back door that the developer left in the code, and reconfigure your screens to kph instead of mph, or retune your sound system, or order a pizza (I am sure there will be an app for that) or just plain turn off the engine while you are driving at 65 mph in heavy traffic? Updates for the O/S, it’s not like we will be plugged into the Apple Store all the time (or is it?).
Much like a Hydrogen Fuel cell this concept of a glass cockpit for the auto is going to take some time. I think that there is less of an infrastructure investment than there is for fuel cells but the development and adoption of this technology is going to be challenging.