An espresso maker for your car? It now exists. So does an in-car pizza oven, a french fry holder, and a programmable LED display that lets you express to other drivers--more eloquently than could your up-raised middle finger--your contempt for their driving.
So new is the espresso machine that it started selling in France only last month (suggested retail price 149 euros). A spokesperson for Handpresso, the company that developed it, says it has received more inquires from the U.S. than from France.
"Handpresso Auto is here," proclaims the website, "a revolutionary machine preparing a premium quality espresso in the car! Handpresso Auto helps you optimize your coffee break wherever you are." About the size of a small cylindrical 1-cup thermos, it sits in your car's cup holder. "Just plug the espresso machine into the 12V cigarette lighter, add water and a coffee pod. Then press the button, wait for the 3 beeps and the espresso is ready....delicious, creamy and tasty!"
Kelley Styring, an expert on consumer behavior and a consultant to the auto industry, isn't at all surprised by the advent of in-car espresso--or, for that matter, by the in-car pizza ovens or a host of other after-market gizmos that make your car more homey. Her consultancy, InsightFarm, tells car makers what features and accessories tomorrow's drivers will want.
Detroit, she says, still thinks of cars as tools for getting from A to B. But consumers think of them as mobile offices, kitchens and bedrooms.
"A habitat for living," Styring calls them. It's true, she says, that mom may spend five hours driving the kids to and from soccer practice. But along the way, she'll spend an hour parked, sitting doing paperwork. Why aren't there more office features in her car? The amount of time Americans spend in their cars doing something other than driving is on the increase, Styring says. She describes herself as an advocate for making cars "more habitable."
Her book "In Your Car: Road Trip Through the American Automobile," came about when Honda lent Styring a Honda Pilot for a 30-day road trip, from which she came away with insights for all kinds of new gizmos tomorrow's drivers might want. They include new systems for dealing with in-car litter (which, she says, tends to migrate under the front passenger seat) and an in-car cooler for drinks and food. Some of her recommendations have been incorporated in the 2011 Honda Odyssey.
"True innovation almost never happens from within an industry itself," she says. "It comes from the outside"--from companies more nimble and more willing to take risks. Everything from cup holders to in-car dvd players to seat belts originated outside Detroit, as after-market accessories. ABC News asked Styring to comment on the espresso maker and on a variety of other new products for making cars more homey:
-Handpresso Auto Espresso-Maker: "It feels like a pretty bad idea," she says. "I hesitate to say terrible, because it's so....out there. Like something you'd see in a Saturday Night Live [parody] commercial." Although the Handpresso's video shows the driver pulling off to the side of the road to make his delicious, creamy, scalding-hot beverage, there's nothing to stop him from trying to make it while driving. If he aims wrong, he fills his lap, not his cup. "Why not just go to Starbucks?"
-Porta-Pizza Oven. As the name suggests, this is a portable pizza oven that plugs into your car's 12-volt outlet. Here again, says Styring, there's no guarantee the user will pull over before using it. And using it while driving could be, at a bare minimum, distracting. While keeping something already cooked warm, she says, is okay, because it can be done passively, active in-car cooking probably is a mistake.
-LED Car Sign. The Drivemocion LED Car Sign lets you display messages and graphics for the viewing pleasure (or displeasure) of other drivers. You can, for instance, use it to express disapproval of another driver's driving. Says Styring: "Clever but bad. Bad for motorist safety. You'll be distracted telling the sign what to say. And you're distracting other drivers, not just yourself. Flipping your finger does not take as much effort."
-Vroominator. This device creates the sounds of a V-8 muscle car, even if what you're driving is a Honda Civic. "I love this," says Sytring. "But don't sell it on the after-market. The car companies should sell it as an option to make cars seem more awesome! There's nothing more exciting to the guys in my family than driving by a big muscle car. This increases sensory enjoyment."
-Projector Clock. This allows you to project the correct time onto any surface in your car, including the windshield. "Why would you need this?" asks Sytring. "The idea of projecting onto the windscreen is interesting, but time is the wrong information. Better you project navigation data, so that you don't have to look away from the road. Or weather and traffic conditions. Or advertising: Your next McDonalds is just two miles away."