Cars are changing fast, as is the way that culture sees and uses them. Google wanted to better understand this, so it compiled search data from the US, Germany and Japan to see what was trending in the wheeled world. The results are a little surprising.
First of all, we should cover how Google went about compiling this data since the idea of my automotive search history being reviewed by anyone or anything is mortifying. Nobody should know the kind of deep, dark masochistic fantasies that I harbor for owning an early-2000s vintage Land Rover Discovery.
Jokes aside, Google looked at search trends (of course), then smoothed out the curve by accounting for seasonal variations in searches (snow tires in winter, convertibles in summer, etc.). Lastly -- and here is where it gets interesting -- Google went through YouTube and broke down what people were making videos about, the type of language they were using to talk about their subject matter and which brands were mentioned. Lastly, Google spoke to 1,000 living, flesh-and-blood human batteries… sorry, human beings, about how the automotive trends that it identified affected their lives.
The US, as it turns out, is very interested in bringing its doggos and/or puppers into the car. The number of searches for dog-related vehicle accessories is on the rise, and this is a trend that isn't lost on manufacturers. Both and have recently advertised accessories to increase the pooch-friendliness of their respective rides. Specifically, people have been searching for dog car seats, dog car hammocks, dog car steps and dog driver's licenses (not really, but that's a world I'd want to live in).
The Germans aren't interested in dogs in their cars, and perhaps that's rightfully so. With all the premium dynamism that Teutonic automakers are pumping into their vehicles, no self-respecting hound would stand a chance in a car hammock. What are those Germans looking for then? Digital audio broadcasting (DAB, for short) compatible radios. DAB is a broadcasting standard introduced by the German government way back in 2010. Things have been slowly converting over, and older car radios won't work with the new technology. The Germans need their Can and Kraftwerk and Hasselhoff to soothe the savage, yet efficient beasts that dwell within their souls.
The last market surveyed, Japan, is completely different. There, auto accessories are king. Google speculates that accessories become more important as more and more Japanese citizens spend increasing amounts of time in their vehicles. This leads inexorably to searches for seat cushions, steering wheel covers and car humidifiers (which I had no idea was a thing). According to the data, a Japanese person is twice as likely to search for auto customization terms online as someone in the US and five times more likely than someone in Germany.
One great unifying want between all three countries is the dashcam. No longer solely the province of Russian taxi drivers, dashcams and apps that make your phone function like a dashcam are trending all over everywhere. People just want to record everything I guess, because reasons, but the fact is that there are three times as many searches for onboard cameras as there are for autonomous driving.
This is the first year that Google has done this trend report, so it will be interesting to revisit this next year and see what has changed, and more importantly, what hasn't. To read the full text of the report, click here.