Talking with a group of motoring writers the subject was raised about how occupants can access all the on-board information available on the modern motor vehicle.
For example, there is voice command, touch screen, touch pad, computer mouse-like control, rotary switch to click-click to the required accessory and push down to select, plus the old-fashioned hand on the dial and turn.
Everyone had a different preference on what they believed should be the standard requirement on all new vehicles. One said voice command was the only way to go while others differed. All agreed whatever navigation system is used, it took time to familiarise themselves with how it all operates when they jumped into a new model press vehicle these days.
And then there is the chap I met who bought his new Toyota Prado based on the previous model being trouble-free apart from one slight niggle which was taken care of under customer goodwill by his local dealer, and the trade-in negotiations were easy.
“I don’t really know what half of all these new features do and neither do I care,” he added. He was happy to learn if required as he went. His wife said she was normally drawn to a particular vehicle by colour alone and worried about the other bits later.
When discussing the new buy in general, he was still coming to terms with having a proximity key and push button start in place of the previous car’s more traditional key that fitted into the steering column and had to be turned to start the engine. “What’s wrong with the old-fashioned key?”
But for other buyers the realisation of how everything works can be daunting and often comes after the sales deal has been signed and a deposit paid. Every new-vehicle dealership I have visited has a well-practised routine for sales staff to undertake when new vehicles are being handed over to their new owners. They often allow up to an hour to work their way through how everything works, to program in the new owner’s phone and pre-set preferred radio stations etc. They do an excellent job but you can’t help get the feeling the customer drives away feeling a little overwhelmed as they can absorb only so much. A follow-up a week or so after the handover by the salesperson to clarify grey areas is often recommended.
This week’s article is not about judging each different navigation system, because they all have their merits. But like the vehicle itself, consumers buy on what appeals to them, and what features work best for them. My recommendation is more about allowing the time and asking for the sales staff to walk you through all the features of each particular model before you commit to buy.
If it’s on-board voice command, don’t be afraid to ask for an in-depth demonstration while the same goes for any other feature you have never experienced. Don’t let the salesperson gloss over the features. To them it’s an everyday experience.
And don’t let modern technology be a total negative. None of us likes change but often once you get used to using a new feature on a new vehicle you wonder how you coped without it. Reverse sensors and/or cameras are a great example.
You may feel a lot more comfortable and confident as a driver and passenger in some vehicles than others. Even having the indicators/wiper stalks on opposite sides of the steering column to what you have been used to can be off-putting for some new owners.
Safety is another reason for getting familiar with new features before you start your journey. Anything that takes your eyes and concentration off the road ahead can be dangerous.