Cars have come a long way from being a simple mode of transport to luxury and status symbol. As a freelance content writer and ghostwriter, I write a lot about cars for my clients across the globe. In the past five years, I have already reached a state where I know quite a bit about American cars and car industry and technology with the kind of research I have to do for my writing assignments. To start with American automakers are very concerned about fuel economy, safety and comfort because those are the top priorities that car buyers think of, above everything else. However, car makers are now pushing the technological envelope to exceed the expectations of their customers.
Cars today are much different from their old counterparts as they are incorporated with computer technologies that can sense what the drivers want and need in order to elevate the entire driving experience. Soon we will move into the next phase of autonomous driving where most of the driving decisions will be taken by the computers incorporated under the hood. However, my question is – Do we really need that kind of experience? Are the new technologies that are being incorporated really helping humans drive better or are they interfering with our decisions and taking away our control behind the steering wheel?
You’re Losing Transmission Control
While automakers are constantly focusing on better performance they are also replacing manual transmission options with automatics that allow driver to take better control. While automatics do offer better performance than a traditional gear-stick, many car buyers believe they steal away the excitement that manual transmissions have to offer. Just couple of days ago, Rowan Atkinson decided to sell off his McLaren F1 that has a manual transmission and in one of the interview questions he was asked why he bought a manual one. He mentioned that he prefers a car that would allow him to feel more like a driver, and less like a manager. I guess that says it all.
Too Many Light Indicators in the Odometer
Similarly, some of the new cars that I write about have too many options blinking up right up in the odometer. Automakers are loading the cars with too many safety and security features like ABS, Hill Climb Assist, Lane Departure Warning and so on. So, every now and then you see these lights flickering up in the odometer that tells the driver that certain things are not going the way it should and I believe that in some way is a distraction, especially when multiple options start lighting up and the driver has no clue what went wrong all of a sudden.
Virtual Buttons Come with Limitations
This is basically a design problem where automakers want to make things comfortable and uncluttered for the car buyers. Hence, you find that certain critical functions that earlier had dedicated hard buttons are now being replaced by virtual buttons on the LCD display. It not only makes the car look modern, it also makes you feel technology-savvy. For automakers this is an ultimate solution where they can club all the functions on a single LCD screen, but what happens when the LCD screen goes off due to a technical error or simply when the LCD screen fails. Well, you run out of options to use all those critical functions that you earlier can put to use by pressing dedicated hard buttons.
Display Screens that Can’t Multi-Task
Similarly, if you have a RearView Assist these huge display screens can do nothing when your car is in reverse. Cars today make use of rearview camera that make life simpler for the drivers to park their car in the right way, but that consumes the huge display screen right up-front. The backup cameras are good for avoiding low-speed accidents when the car backs up, but you can’t use any other functions that are controlled through that display screen, including unable to pickup calls as well. To do that, driver has to pull the car out of the reverse mode and step on the gas to make the car computer realize that he needs that freaking display screen for other reasons.
I certainly appreciate the efforts of automakers to make our driving experience better, but too much of technology and luxury can only lead to more confusion than ever before. The objective of these technologies was to make our driving experience better, but instead they only create hurdles in the practical world. Some auto technologies are simply unwanted, while some snatches away the authority we had behind the wheel in the name of the safety. While these systems work flawlessly, sometimes the system doesn’t recognize a threat that’s obvious to human driver, but what happens when the car system disagrees and overrides the manual control?