Commentary

Tech Won't Sweeten The Commute

Marketing cars is hard enough, what with the competition, but add to it the commute and you have an untenable situation. 

But until commuting does not mean staring at license plates while strapped to a chair where the only possible movement is the shift of one’s right foot back and forth between brake and accelerator, it is a massive waste of time and money, a prescription for physical decline and cancer research, a psychiatry bill waiting to happen, and a feeder for traffic, divorce, and maybe criminal court, depending on your ability to handle rage.  

As we all know, it's not a happy situation. And it's getting less happy as infrastructure slumps, and urbanization continues. When you're stuck out there on some ugly overpass leading to, say, the Garden State, it's hard to smile because you have to go to the bathroom. And, there isn't anything pretty to look at. 

It's not like it looks in the ads. It's hard to pretend you're cruising through Moab in that new [blank]-mobile with sexy, hip boys and girls in the back seat twerking to your incredibly cool infotainment system when you've found yourself (stupidly) sucked onto the 95 ramp off the BQE, and people are just getting out of their cars and walking away to get dinner and see a movie.   

I was at a Ford event this week called "Pursuit of the Happy Commute," a panel discussion with Catt Sadler, an E! News personality; Ruth Zuckerman, who founded a spinning business called "FlyWheel"; Steve Santagati, who is, evidently a "bad-boy" relationship expert; and Ford marketer Amy Marentic.

Dude, any panel with an over-carbonated talking head from E!, a self-help guru of any kind, and a hypertonic trainer who runs a spinning business and works out more than Madonna is like washing down a Three Musketeers lunch with a fire hydrant of Sprite. These people are paid to be bouncy, professionally Pollyanaish and Panglossian. They are paid to find the silver lining. These are the kinds of people who you would learn to avoid at a North Korean work camp. "I don't think you're unhappy because you haven't eaten in a month; I think it's because you haven't allowed yourself to be happy."  

Besides using the event to talk about Ford features, the company also released some data: Two-thirds of Americans spend at least 30 minutes commuting, which is more than those who spend 30 minutes exercising every day. The majority of drivers say that their commute has little positive impact on maintaining a regular exercise routine or supporting overall health goals like eating well or maintaining a healthy weight.

Ford's recommendation: "Stay on health track while on the road with apps such as Food Tripping, an app developed by Ford and SHFT.com that allows users to easily locate sustainable food options on-the-go and in the car." Ford, the app I want is one that fires a heat-seeking missile at the moron in front of me. Or a lighting system for my rear window that says "Hey asshat, it's called the two-second rule."

Surprisingly, only 43% experience traffic during their commute and one in five describes it as “unpredictable.” That, says Ford, "can affect  relationships – for instance, not making it to things on time or being overwhelmed when they finally get there." Not making it on time? How about not making it at all? 

Here's one: To avoid traffic jam headaches – specifically in L.A., where drivers waste an average of 64 additional hours behind the wheel due to traffic – use Ford’s Advanced Navigation to find multiple alternative route options." I hope Ford's Nav system works better than one I used in L.A.: it also gave me an alternative route. I wound up in Needles. 

And, the study said, the majority of Americans say that their commute is typically not enjoyable – using words like stressful, frustrating and boring to describe their daily drives." You could easily replace "commute" with "colonoscopy" in this sentence, that’s what we’re talking about. Most people who are in cars want to get out as soon as possible. If they didn't when they started, they probably do before they're done.

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