When lawyer Vinod Shetty bought his first car, a Fiat, in the late Eighties, the only accessories it had were a radio and wipers. “Even the air-conditioning was installed later as part of a refit,” says the 50-year-old Mumbaikar. However, Shetty’s present car – a Mahindra Scorpio – boasts a host of high-tech features, including climate control, USB connectivity for music and the ability to answer calls using inbuilt Bluetooth connectivity.
These days, special features are becoming standard issue in cars. So the next car you buy is almost certain to incorporate high-end technology – voice controls, individual climate control, Bluetooth, GPS, cruise control – that at one time was found in only premium models.
Carmakers are also beginning to advertise cars on the basis of these features – to make them stand out, and ensure happy customers. One of Ford India’s newest releases – the Fiesta Powershift – has a keypad in the middle of the dashboard, and is the only car in its segment to offer a voice control system for mobiles, radio, CDs, USB, iPods and climate control.
This helps to create what the company calls a “technological cockpit,” says Nigel Wark, executive director for marketing, sales and services at Ford India. Another model – the Mahindra XUV500 – boasts a GPS navigation system, which covers over 1.5 million km of road across 1,200 cities, while the same firm’s Xylo has voice control tech for vehicle commands (doors lock/unlock, etc).
Automotive expert Ranojoy Mukerji agrees that technology of all kinds is beginning to make its way into cars, especially in what is called the ‘in car environment’ – the interior of the vehicle. “A few years ago, even premium cars did not have Bluetooth,” he says, “But now the Ford Figo offers it as standard.”
Mukerji adds that other tech like trip meters (which calculates how many kilometres you can drive with the fuel in your tank) is now available in smaller cars like the Maruti Swift (as well as the Nissan Micra and Tata Manza, among other models). And the good news is that India is a generation behind the US. “The next lot of cars will be equipped with an OS that will enable us to link our smartphones to the car and use its features,” explains Mukerji.
Bertrand D’Souza, editor of automotive magazine Overdrive, agrees that as technology is used by more drivers, it will be cheaper to manufacture, and thus become ubiquitous. But he cautions that India is still not a car market that picks cars for the technology they hold. “Such features are just a welcome frill, but not more than that,” says D’Souza.
Mukerji agrees that people are still not comfortable using voice technology. “I understand the new Xylo understands Indian accents very well,” he explains, “But even so, this kind of tech needs common sense to operate – which is not very common.”
Drivers who have voice control features acknowledge that they don’t use them very often. Banker Rajarshi Chakraborty says its simpler to use the controls on the steering of his Skoda Superb. But the Mumbaikar admits to using his Bluetooth for calls when driving.
But other kinds of tech are more popular. Delhi resident Brigadier (retd) Anjum Shahab, is happy his Tata Manza has a trip meter. “You never have to worry about running out of fuel,” he says.
Ability to make and receive calls.
Ability to connect pen drives, iPods and phones and play our music.
These come on instantly if you drive into an underground parking lot in the middle of the afternoon.
Turn on instantly when it rains.
Climate control and humidity control:
So that the car is neither too hot nor too cold.
Improves air quality inside the car.
Seat cooler or heater:
Adjusts seat temperature.
Keeps the car at a steady pace automatically.
This multi-info display shows data average fuel efficiency, how many km one can drive with the existing fuel in the car, air pressure in tyres.
From HT Brunch, July 22
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