Remember the days when a teenager’s rite of passage was getting the keys to some hunk of American metal, with a great big engine and a four-on-the-floor? Well, move over, old man, because today’s kids apparently would rather receive a smartphone for their sweet 16 than a driver’s license.
So says Nick Bilton, head blogger for the New York Times’ Bits technology blog. His piece for the times openly questioned whether or not the iPhone is the new first car–the symbol of adolescent independence as well as an attainable status symbol–and the evidence would almost certainly agree.
As driver’s licensing requirements increase and insurance rates for sub-25-year-old drivers spike, it would seem that teenagers are meeting these new challenges with a resounding meh: the Department of Transportation estimates that only 30 percent of 16-year-olds got their licenses in 2008, down 20 points in 30 years.
At the same time, the shiny metal, glass, and Kevlar boxes like the iPhone 4S and DROID RAZR don’t command hefty insurance premiums (except for users who tend to drop them), require special licenses, or need pricey gasoline when their onboard power supplies wane.
When automakers like Ford realized years ago that social media would open doors to a younger demographic, it unveiled campaigns like Doug the Spokespuppet and the Focus Challenge for its 2012 Focus and the Fiesta Movement for the 2011 Fiesta, all of which relied heavily on sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Now that the next generation is already plugged in, actually prying children’s hands off of “Angry Birds” and placing them at 10-and-2 could prove a bit harder. As Automobile Magazine’s own Jamie Kitman mused about learners permits early last year, “Suitable accompaniment in [my son’s] mind would not be a legally registered vehicle and a licensed driver… but rather a working adapter and an iPod filled with the complete works of Questlove, the Harlem Shakes, and the Wu-Tang Clan.”
“[The car] has to become an experience,” K. Venkatesh Prasad, senior technical leader of open innovation for Ford, told the Times.
Expect, then, to see a lot more of technologies like Ford’s SYNC and MINI Connected, which connect to smartphones to pull in information or entertainment from the phone and also send out social network updates.
So will MINI Connected’s trick feature that automatically tweets the status of your seat heater and navigation system catch on with a new generation of lead foots? If not, expect plenty of angry emoticons to fly out of major-carmaker marketing firms in the near future.
Source: New York Times Bits