Tech Has Changed Every Aspect of Car Ownership. Here’s How.

November 27, 2016

10:30 am

Much has been made of how technological advancements will change the motor industry in the next few years; from driverless cars to purchasing vehicles through social media apps.

However, technological advancements have already altered our relationship with cars. Compared to just a few years ago, we now we view cars differently, we buy cars differently, we even drive cars differently. And it’s all because of tech.

How We View Cars

Very few things get the pulse racing like a good car. The popularity of television programs like Top Gear are testament to this. We spend a great amount of time in our cars and to most of us, rather than just something to get us from A to B, they’re an extension of ourselves.

Our obsession with the motor industry isn’t just confined to TV and film. Instagram is jammed with accounts solely dedicated to cars. ‘CarLifestyle’ has 3.7 million followers, and the aptly named ‘Amazing Cars 24/7’ has 3.2 million. Top Gear has almost 2 million followers on Twitter and Jeremy Clarkson’s new show, The Grand Tour, picked up 300,000 followers before airing a single episode.

Cars cross over the blurred line between an essential product and a luxury. They need to be practical, but they also need to look good. This in turn has meant that people are more likely to spend more on accessories for their cars. Today, you can buy everything from the customised wheels to personalised number plates online. In fact, over four million of these number plates have been sold in the UK, with many spending anything from £200 to £2000.

How We Buy Cars

If you wanted to buy a car in the old days, you used to have to go to a dealership. You’d have to go through the rigmarole of negotiating a price and turning down extras you neither need nor want. Today, more and more drivers are purchasing their new vehicles without a single trip to a dealership. In fact, you can now purchase a made-to-order, personalized car online.

A new dawn of online purchases have taken off due to the popularity of companies such as Beepi and Vroom, who sell cars online and even offer home delivery. If the car isn’t to your satisfaction, you can simply return it.

This year, the notion of buying a car in a click reached new dizzying heights when one motorhead made headlines for becoming the first person to buy a car, an $800,000 1964 Aston Martin DB5, through social media.

How We Drive Cars

Technology installed in new cars already makes driving a new vehicle a completely different experience to driving an older one. For example, smart dashboards, such as Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto, allow drivers to read out your text messages, answer calls, find maps and play music.

Road safety experts have their reservations about the use of this technology and warn it could become a distraction for drivers or even make them dumber. Others argue the new screens, voice controls and large touch screens will make things safer and keep drivers from fumbling with mobile phones. Although it’s too early to definitively say, this tech could have a huge impact on road safety. Mobile phones are a factor in 26 percent of crashes, about 1.3 million a year, in the United States.

And How We Don’t Drive Cars

Yet as much as technological advancements have already changed car ownership, there is always going to be excitement and apprehension surrounding the things to come. Although it deeply divides car enthusiasts, driverless cars may well become the norm in a few years time. Some even predict that in 20 years, 10 percent of all new cars will be driverless.

However, there are more subtle and immediate ways cars are already becoming ‘driverless’. Some cars already have autonomous features that include things such as active parking assist and advanced cruise control that is the closest think to self-driving cars. For example, the BMW’s 7 Series can actually park itself while the owner is out of the car.

Driverless cars have been portrayed as everything from death traps to the solution to traffic jams, pollution, and road accidents. However, to the average car enthusiasts, people who actually like driving, these driverless cars still belong in the future. Whether that future is apocalyptic or utopian depends on each individual's general outlook on cars.

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Simon Davies is a London based freelance writer with an interest in startup culture, issues and solutions.