homeaboutarchives + tagsshopmembership!
aboutarchivesshopmembership!
aboutarchivesmembers!

Cars are getting weird

posted by Tim Carmody   Jun 13, 2016

Tesla has two cars, the S60 and the S75, that are physically more or less identical, but one costs $8500 more than the other. The cheaper car ($66K base price) has a software block on its battery which limits its range to 208 miles on a full charge. Pay $8500 up front, or $9000 for an over-the-air update later, and you get an extra 40 miles.

Same car, same battery. About 20 percent more efficient, for $9000. Better software license.

Cars are big computers, and have been for a while, but we’re slowly starting to treat them like it. Different expectations, different pricing, different ownership structures, different usage; different everything.

Here’s another story on managing expectations for cars, about steering wheels. Steering wheels have a basic function; they control the car. But if a car is capable of driving itself, and is also an interface for a wide range of general computing tools, what does that mean?

Volvo’s Concept 26 vehicle, which debuted in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show, features a retractable steering wheel. Robin Page, Volvo chief of interior design, says Volvo chose to keep the familiar shape of the steering wheel.

“We wanted to keep that recognition of a round steering wheel,” he said. “People need to get used to autonomous drive, so being able to get back to that steering wheel and grab hold of it, that’s comforting. We decided to have it there as a recognizable icon.”

The steering wheel becomes a skeuomorph. It becomes a surveillance device, registering pressure to tell whether you have both hands firmly on the wheel, or if you’ve fallen asleep or are in distress. It becomes an entertainment console. It transforms and retracts into the dash to signal when you’ve shifted between user-controlled and autonomous modes. Its familiar presence soothes you through the transition. Eventually, you forget it was ever there at all.