The coronavirus pandemic has hit home for millions as it has evolved into serious business over the past few weeks in North America.
The virus known as COVID-19 has forced the world indoors, with individuals and families scrambling to adjust to what’s become our new normal. Federal and international guidelines broadcast over social media can read like a mother’s list of commands: "Wash your hands! Don’t touch your face! Stay indoors and work at home!" Businesses of all sizes are bracing for losses, with schools, houses of worship, and sports leagues closing down overnight. What has become an international crisis seems far beyond our control, unlike so much of our technologically-driven society.
Speaking of technology: cars have become the final frontier -- the last thing standing between people and the outside world. With the uncertainty surrounding the virus and knowing that anyone is at risk of transmitting it, retreating to your car while you look for food or essential supplies allows you to practice social distancing and (if it’s clean enough) maintain a controlled zone that keeps you and others safe. Over the last decade, technological advancements in vehicles -- including Bluetooth, streaming services, and Wi-Fi can help make your car feel like home.
This wireless tool has been a staple of electronic communications since the 2000s and has been the catalyst for both public events and private time. This technology exists in cars, especially those built in the last decade-plus, and has quickly replaced the AUX cord as the remote connection device of the time period. With smartphones becoming the telecommunications standard, and with state laws prohibiting distracted driving, it’s become paramount to create safe and comfortable environments to still use your phone while behind the wheel.
Bluetooth allows for the driver to connect remotely with their phone and perform a number of tasks, such as play music, run a GPS, and make phone calls. While many newer cars have the technology pre-installed and simply require a connection with an existing phone, older vehicles may need inexpensive add-ons, such as universal Bluetooth kits or car adapters.
Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and newly launched Disney+ have become ubiquitous as the video-on-demand experience has evolved from DVD and Blu-ray players in minivans to backseat passengers keeping themselves busy with hours’ worth of entertainment at their fingertips.
If you have children, quarantining can be more challenging – considering how school and work schedules have evaporated and with the pandemic’s full extent still unknown. As you would at home, a smart idea for making your car-ride experience more enjoyable is providing your children with portable, on-demand devices such as tablets and smartphones equipped with the streaming services (and potential child restrictions) of your choice.
In addition, you can use Bluetooth to amplify the sound and turn your car into a movie theater. With the right sound coming from the speaker, your child can have an all-encompassing experience that will add more value to an inevitable car ride to the nearest store that still has hand sanitizer or toilet paper.
In newer cars, Wi-Fi hotspots have emerged as a way to use the internet without spending valuable amounts of data. General Motors, for example, has made it standard amongst its brands. However, if this is not the case for your car, consider utilizing a Wi-Fi hotspot on your phone, which could open up options for further internet connection.
Using Wi-Fi in your car opens up the other two aforementioned technologies while providing a steady connection in your vehicle. If you have children, this wireless connection can keep them company during long breaks. If you’re single or have a partner who's along for the ride, in-car Wi-Fi gives your bank account a break by allowing you to alleviate unnecessary data usage.
Considering how much technology has affected society, car Wi-Fi can also make for a more creative way to stay “indoors” while outside the house. If you’re willing, turn on the car and use Wi-Fi to have a movie night -- battery permitting. The way cars have worked throughout history, it’s not surprising that people would want a respite from the deluge of horrific pandemic updates. Using car Wi-Fi to have a movie night is relatively safe, provided everyone is healthy.
The ‘Internet of Things’
As the internet becomes more essential to our existence, so have the capabilities to connect to the internet. The Internet of Things (IoT) is defined as the various ways our devices connect to the internet. Items such as phones, computers, and televisions are good examples, but more advanced options include wireless headphones, wearable fitness devices, remote monitors, and more.
As it applies to vehicles, IoT has major capabilities. Most new cars are equipped to be IoT-friendly. This has implications for using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other digital technologies. And as our society adjusts to our new wired future, our most universal devices are stepping up to the plate. By the end of 2020, IoT capabilities will be present in more than 250 million vehicles.
Some other examples of this breakthrough include automotive IoT, which aims to make driving a more perfect endeavor with features such as automotive cameras (which aid the driver when they are reversing the car, for example), radar, and in-car GPS. Many utilize traffic patterns through internet technologies, whether from your phone or from outside sources, to ensure the driver has a safe ride.
The coronavirus pandemic has created inconveniences for everyone, from billion-dollar corporations to everyday workers and their loved ones. With our cars becoming more of a safe harbor than usual due to the outbreak, it’s imperative to remain vigilant and be one step ahead of the spread.
HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) air purifiers can come in handy in combating airborne particles, especially considering how the COVID-19 virus can remain in the air for up to three hours. Trust in name-brand purifiers used by major companies like Toyota (Plasmacluster from Sharp is a good example). Devices such as HEPA are CDC-approved for a minimum defense mechanism against coronaviruses.
Other car companies such as Jaguar and Yanfeng have adapted ultraviolet light to kill various airborne germs. These should be used with caution, however, especially considering the effects of UV and UV-C rays on the human body. Car disinfectants and odor eliminators, while more traditional, can at least mitigate the risks. That said, they cannot be guaranteed to actually kill the major flu viruses -- but they do help maintain a safer and cleaner car experience.
With the virus reaching its most powerful form in North America, people can maintain their cars as a viable safe space for quarantining. Technological improvements and advances such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, streaming services, and cleanliness measures can make your method of transportation a safe haven. With these advancements, you can take care of your health and well-being along the way.
Pictured top: Apple CarPlay