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Should car makers dump cigarette lighters in favour of USB ports?

Hyundai has revealed plans to replace traditional in-car cigarette lighter sockets with USB ports, with all domestic cars and SUVs sold in Korea to feature the change from October.

The reason, Hyundai explains, is down to changing consumer habits. A domestic survey has found drivers are more inclined to charge tablets, smartphones and other gadgets via the 12v socket than spark up a cigarette, with many of those gadgets featuring USB connectivity.

This approach may seem like yet another attack on smokers, but there’s plenty to support the argument for a switch to USB. Fewer motorists than ever smoke as people become wise to the health implications of sparking up – particularly on the move.

Smoking in a car, it has been claimed, intensifies the effects of second hand smoke, with data suggesting smokers are more likely to become distracted while driving, leading to accidents.

There’s also no denying the fact that most motorists – in modern cars, at least – don’t use their in-car cigarette lighters as often as they used to. Most cars don’t even come with one, in fact. The vast majority are fitted with 12V sockets, but the actual lighting elements are usually only available as part of an optional smoker’s pack that costs extra.

Obviously, 12V power supplies are incredibly useful; they can provide juice to a wide range of gadgets – far more, probably, than USB ports. But how often do you plug a USB mini-fridge or a PlayStation into your centre console? We’d argue most drivers and their passengers would rather top up the batteries in their smartphones via USB.

USB ports are becoming more common in cars as part of increasingly impressive infotainment systems – Audi Connect and Ford Sync being prime examples. But all too often consumers are asked to fork out extra for the privilege. We say it’s time the motoring industry ditched the 12V socket, installed USB as standard and leave those people desperate for nicotine fix to either quit, or buy a cheapo lighter for a few pennies.

Image: Filckr

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