The present has a fierce way of humbling our ideas of the future, as anybody who has seen Back to the Future II will testify to. Our ideas of the future tend to date extremely quickly, or get ahead of themselves rampantly, leaving designers and directors looking a little bit silly.
Which is why it comes as a slight surprise that new cars are pretty much the same as they always were. Even new electric vehicles look much like the cars we’ve known and loved for the past hundred years.
We like a gear stick, we like a diesel engined car which is sometimes as grumpy as we are in the morning. And the future always seems to be a lot cleaner than it is possible to be today. It’s as if there were no mud in the future.
And quite frankly, if the latest raft of ‘futuristic’ interior development is anything to go by, we will be sticking to these basics of driving for a few years yet.
Many of the new interior ideas are designed around the Bluetooth concept. This allows the hands-free completion of any number of menial tasks for which you would usually have to commit a hand or two, clearly a no-no whilst driving.
The breadth of the Bluetooth remit currently includes voice activated cell phone dialling, though you would have thought this technology to have been perfected and more widely used by now.
The simple fact is that companies don’t seem to be able to get it right. And this is the sort of technology which has the potential to genuinely frustrate a driver as much as make his life easier.
It is also possible on some new cars to adjust the temperature of the cabin through a series of voice commands, These are simplifications - ‘temp up’, ‘temp down’ and the like – which threatens to bring us down to the level of the computer, rather than raising it up to our human level of literacy.
For those of us who have had to use even the new GPS or Sat Nav systems, it is clear that sometimes they require adjustment mid-drive. This has a number of applications. You can imagine a command – ‘Take me home!’, for example - becoming both fun and useful , although in the imagination of course this command is linked to a car which then pours you a drink and massages your shoulders. So a chauffer fantasy then, or a first class train.
More impressive perhaps, and not only in its commitment to a novel totality of work, is the new BMW system which allows you to dictate and edit emails as you drive. This is another example of voice recognition software taking a turn towards the more sophisticated. And towards turning your car into a modern office complete with secretarial function, an alarming prospect for those who find a little respite in their car o the way to and from the office.