By Chuck Woodbury
There is a principle in business: Always make enough improvement in your products each year so you can sell your customers the latest model. That’s why car fins were promoted heavily back in the ’60s, then, a few years later — when everybody wised up that they were beyond ugly — consumers rushed out to buy a new model that didn’t look like a Batmobile.
RV manufacturers are ever trying to be the first to introduce cool things that they have never offered before, things that none of their competitors offer. Slideouts started this way. Electric fireplaces started this way. Ditto big screen TVs, two bathrooms, built in vacuums, heated floors, wine coolers, and the latest big thing, the built-in, pull-out doggie bowl.
When will it end? (Never?)
SO HERE COMES AIRSTREAM with new innovations that further complicate the idea of getting away from it all — from camping — from making s’mores and telling ghost stories by the campfire. CEO Bob Wheeler explained to the website Gear Patrol about the latest, greatest innovations in the sleek, silver trailers.
He said the Airstream Smart Control app has been a “game changer.” While not new, the app dovetails with Airstream’s Multiplex control system to give a smartphone power over things like climate, lighting, awning extension, and tank and resource levels — designed, we assume, for people who do not know how to turn a dial or flip a switch.
“What’s new will be the ability to link this system to the cloud, so you can understand, control and monitor your Airstream from anywhere,” Wheeler told Gear Patrol. So it’s kinda like a TV remote control that controls all kinds of things that really aren’t needed in a mini-home with tires.
“Say you’re on a hike and there’s a storm system approaching your area,” he says, without mentioning that anyone with brains would have looked at the weather report before leaving. “We could send you an alert that it’s coming and offer to retract your awning. Or if the temperature is rapidly dropping, we can offer to turn on the heater to warm up the water in your tanks so it doesn’t freeze,” he says.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We think a good app for 2021 models would be one that monitors your dog’s appetite so that when it’s hungry, it releases food into its built-in, pull-out doggie bowl. Another good app would be one that you could use with your smartphone on the pot while playing solitaire, and then use to flush without having to resort to an old-fashioned foot pedal.
Artificial Intelligence, Wheeler continued, could even understand your water and other resource levels (like propane or electricity) and calculate when you’ll need to top off — and how much you’ll need — before you head “into the wilderness” (his words), where one percent of RVers actually stay.
And if that’s not enough, he’s talking about self-driving trailers.
Once you get to a tight campsite (out there in the wilderness), Wheeler says you can detach the trailer and control it from your phone to maneuver it into the parking space under its own power. Plus, established campsites (they wouldn’t be in the wilderness, though) would have power poles that could double as charging stations, giving you medium-to-fast charging at a number of places. He didn’t say what you might want to charge. Phones? Maybe the self-driving trailer — that must be it.
Yikes! Whatever happened to camping? This new technology will drive us all batty. Isn’t the idea of camping to get away from the complexities of life? And, heaven forbid we break down in a small town somewhere and the only mechanic for 100 miles is challenged fixing anything beyond a flat tire.