published Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Kennedy: Gadgets I wish new car companies would adopt

I write a column for the Saturday Business section called Test Drive. Every week I get to try out a shiny, new car, truck or SUV.

It's not a bad gig. My buddies at the paper sometimes rib me, though, for searching out fancy cars.

Well, in defense of my habit of occasionally writing about $100,000 vehicles, I would like to point out one often-overlooked fact: Radiologists need cars, too.

Sometimes my auto reviews include a laundry list of newfangled features such as traction control, backup cameras, ventilated seats and navigation systems. Automakers are always looking for the next game-changing safety or convenience feature.

Sometimes car company engineers are influenced by their own cultural biases. For example, VW was late to adopt big cup holders, which is understandable because only a dummkopf would drive 125 mph on the autobahn while chugging a Slurpee.

Today, I'd like to offer my services to the automakers as a focus group of one. I've got some ideas for how they could tweak their fancy features to make cars irresistible to the masses.

So here goes.

1. What we've got: Stability control. This feature lets your car actually take over the brakes to keep your vehicle between the lines when you slosh hot Starbucks between your legs.

What we really need: Stable drivers. A first-aid kit in the glove compartment stocked with an assortment of anti-anxiety pills would be a good start.

2. What we've got: Ventilated seats that cool your, um, cracks.

What we really need: Ventilated seats that eliminate foul odors from children. I'd pay $1,000 for a button that would suck away the gaseous odors after soccer practice.

3. What we've got: Tire-pressure monitors. Dummy lights on the dash that illuminate when one of your tires has sprung a leak.

What we really need: Blood pressure monitors. A dash light that tells you when you are about to blow a gasket in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Pulse rate monitors in the steering wheel would also be, as my boys say, easy peasy.

4. What we've got: Bluetooth compatibility. This allows hands-free use of your cellphone over the car's loudspeakers.

What we really need: Blue hair compatibility. This would be a driver's seat motor that would automatically crank up granny so she can see over the steering wheel of her Buick.

5. What we've got: Rooftop cargo carriers. Mitt Romney got in trouble for admitting to having put his Irish setter in a rooftop container during a 12-hour car trip in 1983.

What we really need: Better birth control so the dog has room to ride inside the car.

6. What we've got: Leather-covered seat surfaces for a touch of luxury.

What we really need: Stainless-steel back seats so parents can blast away melted Skittles with a pressure washer.

7. What we've got: Rear-view cameras so you don't back the family SUV over a Big Wheel.

What we really need: Back-seat cameras so parents can see who struck the first blow in a sibling slap fight.

8. What we've got: Voice-controlled navigation systems that can steer you to your final destination.

What we really need: Voice-controlled kids.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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