Drivers and automotive service personnel are often very different animals. But they share one trait. New technologies have them all dazed and confused: drivers trying to understand those technologies and service personnel saddled with trying to explain them, and getting it to stick!
Despite years of failure, car companies continue to believe that education is the way to go. Over the last 12 months, Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, and Lexus have all set or reset education initiatives. Those initiatives will likely fail, leaving all involved still dazed and confused.
The question must finally be asked. What do car companies know about education? Given the continued difficulties they face when introducing new features to consumers, the answer would have to be very, very little. The reality is they know nothing about education, just as educators know nothing of building cars!
Please do not misunderstand. I will not advocate for the improvement of consumer education. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, then the automobile industry is already suffering from a collective insanity.
So why does education fail? I can think of two major failings. First, I have seen salesmen and service personnel alike make the same fundamental mistake and whether or not you have recently purchased a new car, you have likely experienced it too. It’s the ‘watch this’ problem. All of us have had someone sit down at a computer to ‘show us’ how to do something. We watch the results on the screen while someone else’s fingers manipulate the keyboard and mouse. In the end, we are left with absolutely no idea what was done to get to the result.
Still, that’s not the real reason education doesn’t work. The question is, how do any of us learn? Think of what you remember from school. Any school. Not easy is it?
So, the second reason is that in fact, we learn by doing. And repeating. Over and over. So, a driver will learn how to connect a new cell phone to his infotainment system by connecting at least three of them. Hopefully in rapid succession. A driver will finally understand what to do when the tire pressure warning light comes on the fourth time she has to deal with it.
Unfortunately, all that information can and will be lost with the passage of time. And time will pass between the sightings of a trouble light or the need to connect a new phone.
So, what is a car company to do? How about an infotainment system that does a show and tell on connecting a new phone. The instructions are out there and accessible to a connected infotainment system. And yes, I did say ‘tell’: verbal instructions as well as on-screen visuals. How about connecting that voice to the instrument panel to that same infotainment system and having it give at least a rudimentary explanation for that warning light that just came on? Either could easily include an option to call the nearest dealer or roadside assistance for help.
Now those would be steps in the right direction, unless the car companies are not actually tired of frustrated drivers and service personnel.