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Built-in automobile technology is distracting our driving

We’ve all seen the consequences of texting and driving.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has education content for public awareness campaigns. But, do you think we have a myopic focus on cell phones as the device providing the distraction? Touch screens and electronic functions built-in the latest automobiles can provide as much temptation and distraction as cell phones.  Cars today come with a variety of electronic options including GPS navigation, bluetooth audio, streaming music services, and yes even texting.

My car has a text function that is part of the bluetooth handsfreelink feature. The feature only shows messages when the car is stopped. However, it will read messages out loud using a text-to-speech module when the car is in motion. I use the physical controls to manipulate the function. But wait, there’s more. This feature also allows me to select pre-written replies using the physical knobs in front of me.

I have used this feature in the past, but I’m left to wonder, why is this legal? There isn’t much difference from texting and driving from a phone keypad.  I have to take my eyes off the road to read the display, turn a knob, and select a choice. That’s a distraction. That’s eyes off the road even if only for a second or two.

It’s clear the boundaries are not clearly defined when it comes to safety and automobile features. It certainly feels like automobile manufacturers are getting a pass for what a car owner would not get in the eyes of the law.  I support free enterprise and profits so car makers can sell more units, but the lack of laws and regulations are too light in this area. It feels like a few tragedies waiting to happen.

A good start would be no active text functions when the car is not in park.  Period.

Be smart on the road.

Onward and upward!

Customer service wowed

Guess who wowed me with customer service?

Auto maintenance know-how is one skill I wish I had. I know some basic things like how to change a car battery, how to change head-light and tail-light bulbs, how to replace a fuse, and how to change wiper blades. But I’ll admit that’s a pretty lame list. I’d like to learn more, but then I keep asking myself if I would feel safe in a car in which I had performed mechanical maintenance.

I place a high degree of value on reliable cars so I keep up with preventative maintenance. I use the same local auto-service shop for all my family vehicles. Over the years, I’ve come to know the employees and owner at the shop. They treat my car maintenance needs honestly and fair and I repeat my business with them.

This past week I entered the shop without an appointment because I needed an emergency repair. Upon entering I was greeted immediately with “Good morning Bob”. That made me pause for a moment. It felt nice and caught my attention. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, writes that a person’s name is the “sweetest” and most important sound in any language. Our name is central to our identity and when someone uses it we are inclined to think more positively about them. I didn’t think about Dale Carnegie’s teaching when this happened, but I’ll agree that it is an impressionable way to start a conversation.

But wait there’s more.

So I dropped off a car for some work. Then later in the day I started receiving text messages regarding the status of my service. Each message ended with the shop name and phone number which makes it easy to highlight and call if necessary. In one case, I  was also able to reply to the text message with a question I forgot to ask earlier.

Hello Bob, your vehicle has been dispatched to a technician, awaiting inspection.

Hello Bob, a technician is now servicing your vehicle.

Hello Bob, we are waiting on parts for your vehicle.

Hello Bob, your vehicle is ready for pick up! Our hours are M-F 7am-6pm.

What a great use of SMS texting. For me it was a convenience because often times when the shop calls during a work day I’m not able to take the call. It’s quicker to read the status message than going into voice mail. While I certainly don’t need all the detail in-between drop-off and service-ready status, it is a nice feeling to know what’s happening with my automobile. If I were in a hurry to pick-up the vehicle then the timing would be very important. So messaging like this keeps me better informed.

When I returned to pickup the vehicle, I asked the shop advisor about the service. He said that it’s reduced the number of status phone calls to the shop to just check when a vehicle will be ready for pickup. It also reduces the time they are required to make phone calls when a car is ready.  So the service is a win-win for the customer and shop owner.

Maybe one day he’ll teach me to fish.

Maybe one day my car maintenance guys will teach me how to do some repairs at home. DIY car repair. After I was greeted by name I jokingly said “I’m not sure if I should happy or worried that my car guy knows me by name.” He liked that. I liked that.

My “wow” experience of the week through personal greeting and effective electronic communication.  Onward and forward!