Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Those Confounded In-Car Navigation Systems: Why Do They Treat Us Like Idiots?

In no way does this serve as a news flash, but I drive a lot of cars.

In a typical year, I'll drive between 80 and 100 new vehicles. It's a big spread; I know, but it all rests on how fat the manufacturer press fleets are and how many new-vehicle introductions I manage to get invited to. It varies from year to year.

I spend a week at home with 75 or so of these cars, trucks, SUVs and crossovers, and the balance I drive for a couple of hours at a media introductory event. Some I drive at both.

Do you feel sorry for me yet? Well, you shouldn't. It's a good gig. It doesn't pay much, but it's a good gig.

It's a great second job, if you are lucky enough to have a real job that pays the bills. Some of the writers I know have that real job and some don't. I fall into the latter group.

Feel sorry for me now? You shouldn't. It's still a good gig.

Among the vehicles I pilot each year, probably 60% have a built-in navigation unit.

Some are better than others in terms of clarity of instructions and plotting the best route.

Whether or not you should pony up the extra $1,200 to $1,800 to have one in your next new car is up to you.

I like the idea of a built-in system because as an auto-journalist buddy of mine pointed out, their screens are usually larger -- sometimes much larger -- than those of portable, handheld units.

That's a big check in the "plus" column for me.

The rub, however, is that built-in units are pricy and, according to my buddies at AutoTrader, they bring very little extra value at trade-in time.

Whether you trade-in your car or sell it, the built-in nav unit simply won't pull its weight to increase your used vehicle's value.

Yep, you basically have to think about those big bucks you spent up front as a rental fee to have the nav system for the time you own that car.

That knowledge would give me pause as I signed the paperwork to buy the car.

Here's the other thing that bugs me about a built-in system in your personal car: You shouldn't have to click "Agree" to answer some nonsensical legal disclaimer every time you access the nav unit.

You know the one that reminds you that operating the navigation system while driving is dangerous and you won't do it. Really? It isn't safe?

Here you have a platoon of lawyers sitting in the headquarters of a car manufacturer valiantly attempting to prove their worth and increasing their job security by insisting on this legal disclaimer that repeats itself every time you key the ignition.

I'm a high-school graduate; do I really need to be told every time I enter the car that I shouldn't attempt to type "Albuquerque" on the address screen while hurtling down the highway at 70 mph?

Apparently I do. At least some overpaid legal beagle has convinced nearly every carmaker that I do.

There should be some way to program a one-time "Agree" into the system and avoid the wasted time responding every time you turn the key in the ignition.

It's your car, after all. Shouldn't you be able to program that wildly overpriced nav system so it doesn't treat you as some sort of a blithering idiot?

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