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Things that should exist, #832: Phone/Car co-branding
Jeremy Faludi, 11 Aug 05

Transportation and communication go together like pastrami on rye. Why hasn't co-branding between a cell phone company and a car company happened yet? Unlike the useless gimmicky co-branding like Eddie Bauer, this would actually simplify the user's life, in these ways:

- The hurking fat electronic key-fob, which was larger than all your other keys put together, is gone. Your cell phone locks and unlocks the car. If the car's a hybrid, the phone even starts it.

- The car has a built-in cradle for the phone to sit in, where it charges and hooks into the stereo system for hands-free talking--no fiddling around with wires and where to put the phone, or third-party dashboard mounts.

- instead of the car alarm shrieking to piss off the neighbors while you sit obliviously in the office, the car alarm rings your phone so YOU know the car's being stolen.

- The car's fancy onboard navigation system is actually just a large screen for your phone, to use Google Maps and traffic reports and such.


It could even get to the gimmicky-but-handy things like:

- both your car and phone have GPS or cell-tower triangulation, so your phone can tell you where your car is if you've forgotten.

I'm telling you, this invention is at least three years overdue.

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Comments

Jeremy, I respectfully disagree. I think that cars and mobile phones go together like arsenic and lemonade. Phone conversations - even on hands-free sets - impair a driver as much as a .08 blood alcohol level. Several studies have documented this. Any cop will tell you the same. I've lived almost a half century without needing to have a phone conversation while I drive, and so far, life has been just fine. Is there really - really, now - a need for this?


Posted by: David Foley on 11 Aug 05

Is the crux of your idea better integration of mobile and auto functionality, or "co-branding" mobiles and cars?

The first is a technological endeavor. The second is a marketing technique, and not one in which good service, fair rates, or the best possible usability would be foregone conclusions.


Posted by: Emily Gertz on 11 Aug 05

That last car locating feature along with the ability to unlock and start the car could be bad from a security point of view.

At least with current key fobs you need to have at least some idea where the car is in order to hear the horn beep. With GPS, someone could pick up your cell and find your car with no knowledge of where you parked it.


Posted by: Dan Hook on 11 Aug 05

Agreed w/ David and Emily! Good ideas for sure, but until cars pilot themselves, I'd think communication and driving should be at arm's reach from one another. IIRC, hands free operation didn't do anything to improve driver's concentration on the road. Plus, cell phone tend to have a way shorter replacement cycle than cars; much effort has been made to conceptually brand them as frequently replaced fashion accessories.


Posted by: Rod Edwards on 11 Aug 05

Hmm. Okay, not such a hit idea after all.
Emily, let me assure you I'm in it for the functionality, not the marketing; in fact, David, I'm really in it for the no-fob and better-alarm and car-finding functions, not so much the talk-while-driving function. Though I think studies should be done comparing driver distraction while talking on a cell phone to driver distraction while talking to other people in the car; I find the latter more distracting.

As for security of car-finding, Dan, that can be easily accomplished by password-protection. Anyone who's smart enough to hack past a phone's password security is more than smart enough to break into a car without this invention.


Posted by: Jeremy Faludi on 11 Aug 05

Hold on now, I think this is a fantastic idea.

For those who believe that phones and cars shouldn't mix - it's a moot point. It's like saying teens shouldn't have sex. Either way it's going to happen, all we can determine is some of the terms on which it happens. In this case having a hands-free system that works through the car's speakers will alleviate fumbling, leaning, and straining. It's better than what we currently have.

The security problem of phone-controlled ignition is already addressed in the Toyota Prius. It knows when you're in the car ('cause it knows the key is in the car) and you just press an 'on' button. This would be no different.

The alarm idea is excellent. The problem with conventional car alarms is that the only people who hear it are people who will cheer a criminal as long as they can turn the damn thing off. This will allow the owner to take measures directly.

Other than the question of having a telco and a car manufacturer merge (icky) I think this is a great idea. As a nerd, I'd also like to see an open standard for the protocol between these devices to the technology wouldn't be limited to just a couple big names.


Posted by: Danger Stevens on 11 Aug 05

- The hurking fat electronic key-fob, which was larger than all your other keys put together, is gone. Your cell phone locks and unlocks the car. If the car's a hybrid, the phone even starts it.
- The car's fancy onboard navigation system is actually just a large screen for your phone, to use Google Maps and traffic reports and such.

... er, how big's your phone?

- both your car and phone have GPS or cell-tower triangulation, so your phone can tell you where your car is if you've forgotten.

... or, alternatively, you could query your car when you've mislaid your phone! (if you could get into your car)

I would have to agree with the non-use of phones when driving, even hands-off. The real distraction comes from the variation in signal intensity when you're driving (how this tallies with radio use, I'm not sure)


Posted by: Tony Fisk on 11 Aug 05

I like the idea of increasing functionality and adding features by combining the two technologies.

I want to be able to phone my car to tell it to start the engine and turn on the air-con (but without unlocking the doors) five minutes before I leave the house.

Oh yeah, and talking on a cell while you drive is definitely a bad idea (even though most of us do it).


Posted by: Martin Polley on 12 Aug 05

This puts me in mind of the Oybike rent-a-bike program in England, where you can lock and unlock the bike by calling in on your mobile and getting back a PIN for the lock. Not exactly the direct car-mobile communication you envision, Jer, but it's a start.


Posted by: Emily Gertz on 12 Aug 05

Per Jer's comment about conversations with the passenger being more distracting than phone ... nope, they've studied that. Your passenger is less distracting (in theory because they see a hairy driving situation about to happen & shut up). Phone is more distracting than listening to the radio, chatting to your shotgun driver, just about anything else... unless you are in the habit of doing your crossword puzzle while you drive (don't laugh, I've seen it).

Factoid: it is against company policy for BP employees to talk on the phone while driving when on the job, handsfree set or no. I believe it's grounds for dismissal.

Chris


Posted by: Chris Page on 12 Aug 05

Things that should NOT exist:

Automobiles

In case you haven't noticed, the climate is warming in large part because of gasoline-powered personal transportation.

Does anyone else see the insanity of a preoccupation with personal convenience which promotes the toasting of the planet?


Posted by: Bart Anderson on 13 Aug 05



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