I’ve just purchased a new car, and since this happened while I was deeply immersed in all things telephony the car-buying process came as quite a cultural shock. Automobile purchases remain profoundly different than the purchase of a cellular phone; as a public service to our readers who might encounter this amazing process, here’s a brief guide.
You can purchase your new car anywhere. Cellphone users will be surprised to learn that automobiles are sold by special vendors, not by gasoline stations. The disaggregation between the business of selling cars and selling gasoline results in a very different experience than the forced marriage of cellphones and cellular service. You can purchase any vehicle you want and can afford, and the vehicle will come with all features enabled — the dealer won’t disable some arbitrary set of features in order to conform to his current business plan. If you want power door locks, or a moonroof, or a bicycle rack, just ask for them; you won’t be charged an additional monthly fee for each feature.
Your car interface is under your control. Your car will not contain pop-up advertising from your automobile manufacturer or gasoline vendor. The dashboard will not suddenly morph into a different layout after a visit to your mechanic. If you attempt to tune the radio to your favorite station, the car will not attempt to hijack you to an affiliate of the manufacturer’s or play advertising to you.
No viruses. Don’t worry about lending your car to friends or letting your teenager drive; no worries when you change a lightbulb or if someone offers you an extra cupholder. Your car cannot catch a virus, although this may change if Microsoft ever comes out with “LiveCar.”
You can drive your new car anywhere. Unlike your cell phone, once you’ve taken possession of your car you have no further restrictions — your car isn’t locked to a particular road network. Although some roads are better than other roads, there’s almost never a compatibility problem between your car and the road. You can drive your on any road, or even off the road entirely. You can drive your car into the far north reaches of Canada or down the to the southern tip of Chile and it will continue to operate. On the downside, trips to visit a friend or family member who owns your same model car or buys your same brand of gasoline are not free.
Road travel is almost always free. A new highway bridge costs more than a hundred cellphone towers, yet travel over a highway bridge is free and using a cellular tower is quite expensive. It remains one of life’s little mysteries.
Minimum gasoline purchases are not required. Of all the differences, this is the most amazing. You purchase gasoline as you need it by refilling your tank; you are not required to pay a monthly subscription that locks you into one gasoline vendor for two years. If you don’t drive very much and don’t use up your gasoline in one month, you can use the rest of the gasoline the next month — the gasoline company does not siphon it away.
Gasoline vendors compete on a daily basis for your business, and they’re always inventing some new spin as to why you should purchase gasoline from their company rather than from the competition. Perhaps we’ll see this carry over into the cellular world one day — “Acme Cellular signals: now with EtherClean™ to keep your phone’s radio circuits and keypad in better condition!” — but in the meantime cellular companies staunchly continue to fight their slow slide into commoditization.
Some limitations apply. You may speak as quickly as you please on your cell phone, but there’s almost always a speed limit for your car.