My Cousin Finny, Smartphones and Drive-Ins

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Yes, I’m getting older and it’s true that there was a drive-in theater not far from where I grew up and we did go a few times, but the heyday of the drive-in, the symbol of the baby-boomer’s car-centric teenage culture, was long over. Still, the car was what provided the freedom that made being a young adult fun. Most memories of my teenage years revolve around a car.

Admittedly I am a “car guy” and always have been, but I can completely understand those who feel that cars are just appliances to get you to where you need to be. The same can be said of clothing and food I suppose, but there are entire industries that exist only to provide haute couture and haute cuisine for those who want more.

Over the last year or so there has been much attention paid to the Generation Y’s apparent indifference to driving. There are many reasons for the feeling that cars do not represent what they did to previous generations.

Gen Y has been dubbed Gen N, as in Generation Neutral — which is the way some describe how millennials feel about car ownership. Studies have shown that fewer young adults have driver’s licenses, that this group  hates the traditional car-buying process more than other demographics, and that they prefer urban living and socializing online and therefore  have less need for cars.

The Great Debate: Do Millennials Really Want Cars, or Not? | By Brad Tuttle | Time

“That moment of realizing that you’re a grown-up — for my generation, that was when you got your driver’s license or car,” said Tony Dudzik, a senior policy analyst of the Frontier Group, a California-based think tank that has studied this phenomenon. “For young people now, that moment comes when you get your first cellphone.”

America’s Generation Y not driven to drive | By Deborah Zabarenko | Reuters

The economy is also a huge factor. Many young people face soaring tuition costs, and the money they’re earning in their part-time, summer and first jobs is going to pay for school and rent. Even if they can afford cars, insurance is expensive, and just getting a license can cost hundreds of dollars in driving instruction fees. 

Why Generation Y Sees No Need To Get Behind The Wheel | by Micheline Maynard | Forbes

In an effort to attract young people to cars, automakers have set up shop in Silicon Valley and are looking to the digital world as a way to lure them.

What the savvy people in the car business say is that they have to look outside their industry to learn — from cellphones, apps, computers and video games.

“We can make the car that’s becoming part of your digital life,” says Chuhee Lee, the deputy director at Volkswagen’s Electronic Research Lab in Belmont, Calif., a little town at the north end of Silicon Valley.

Volkswagen’s vision boils down to this: bring its cars into the digital world and make them an extension of all the services millennials already love.

“The car should be intelligent enough to interact with other intelligent systems around you, like a smartphone being very intelligent about … your schedule, trying to propose and make arrangements for you,” Lee says.

Lee describes turning your whole car into sort of a voice-activated system like Apple’s Siri. And GM’s (John) McFarland says his company, like VW, is working on cars that learn your habits — your schedules, destinations and radio stations. And, McFarland says, ideally, these cars get better with time.

“We think there’s opportunity to make it so that the day you drive it off the lot is the beginning, and you continue to personalize it and customize and add new content just like you do with a phone,” McFarland says.

To Attract Millennials, Automakers Look To Smartphones | Noah Nelson and Sonari Glinton | NPR

While I applaud the integration of many of today’s technologies into most parts of my life I recognize that sometimes advancement is in the eye of the beholder. I do not need a car that drives itself. I like the feeling of being in control and feeling the road. It is important that the tactile sensations of driving are not lost on the younger generations and what better way to lure them then with racing? I regularly play driving and racing games with my sons and their friends. Some of our favorites to play together are the Forza series, especially 3 and 4, Driver San Francisco and Midnight Club LA.

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This last week, we had Josefina or “Finny”, our fifteen year old cousin from the Czech Republic staying with us. She was drawn to our Xbox racing wheel and spent many hours driving, racing, crashing and having a good time. Whether smashing a Bugatti Veyron into the back wall of the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans in Forza 4 or clearing traffic amid the constant sound of breaking glass and crunching steel in Driver San Francisco, she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  She tried to outrun the cops all over Los Angeles in Midnight Club LA and tried not to get hit by our various projectiles in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. We even tried motorcycles playing MotoGP 2006 and 2007. I was looking for the Prague track but I think that it is in a different game, so we settled on Brno. We took to off-road motorcycles and ATVs in MX vs ATV Alive and while we played we talked about driving. She has none of indifference displayed by teenagers in this country. She really made my day when she said that in America drivers seem to all prefer automatics. I reminded her that my car has a six speed manual and many of my friends still prefer them as well.

I guess that I have never realized how much of my day is spent thinking about cars. I was recently stunned to learn that Fox removed the Speed channel from my FIOS line up. I watched Speed more than any other channel and there is nothing to take its place. Although Fox has apparently stated that the majority of the racing content would remain on other Fox sports channels, every time that I have tuned in they have been showing football.

After visiting some of the more typical tourist attractions we thought that it would be fun to try go-cart racing at Pole Position, a local indoor track. A great time was had by all. Here is a short excerpt from one of the races. No, I do not have flesh-eating bacteria on my legs. I am recovering from sunburn.

We didn’t even get to try our slot cars. Next time I guess.

Posted on September 2, 2013, in Family, Gaming and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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