Ten tech "improvements" that make cars worse

If we let our cars to reconfigure our twitter feed and oversimplify driving all we're going to end up with are dumb, distracted drivers coddled by nannying computers. Here's ten technological "improvements" that Jalopnik readers don't want anywhere near their cars.


Welcome back to Answers of the Day — our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!

10.) Lighted, heated cupholders

Suggested By: Batspiegel, the night is mine

Why it needs to die: On long trips, you can come to want cupholders, but do they need to be illuminated? Does your Big Gulp need a nightlight? If there was ever a symbol of Feature Creep, where manufacturers make new cars needlessly more complex, heavy, and expensive only for the sake of having more gadgets than the next guy, this is it.


Photo Credit: Dodge


9.) Plastic engine covers

Suggested By: 87CE 95PV Type Я

Why it needs to die: Plastic engine covers make cars marginally quieter, isolating us audibly and visually from the workings of our cars. Specifically, they keep us removed from our very favorite part of the car. If you don't want to hear those exploding hydrocarbons, say, you drive a Mazda Protégé that buzzes at 4,000 rpm on the highway, the solution is better sounding, more melodic engines, not isolation. Not hearing the car when it's performing well means not hearing the car when it isn't


Photo Credit: Michael Price


8.) Cars without dipsticks

Suggested By: JackTrade

Why it needs to die: Starting with BMWs a few years back and presumably trickling down to more everyday transportation, cars are coming without a means of checking the oil. There's just no dipstick. What you get is a little warning light where a computer tells you when it thinks oil is low. All this is doing is taking away information from you, the owner of your car. It is as if carmakers are trying to make us more oblivious when it comes to how to maintain and run a car on our own.


Photo Credit: Andreas Jacob


7.) Auto windshield wipers

Suggested By: waveridn1959

Why it needs to die: In another instance of Feature Creep, carmakers have decided that they can raise prices on cars if they just fill them with needless gadgets. Rain-sensing wipers make cars more complicated without really making them better. Are there loud drops hitting your windshield? Is it wet outside? It's raining. You don't need your car to make that decision for you and you shouldn't be paying for it.


Photo Credit: Wonderlane


6.) Steering-by-wire

Suggested By: Anti-Dub

Why it needs to die: Once more carmakers are squeezing every last bit of efficiency out of their products so they can meet ever-tighter economy and emissions standards and we're the ones paying. Steering-by-wire leaves us with a dull tiller lacking anything resembling feedback. If we wanted to get places without feeling any sensations of being in a car, we'd take the bus.


Photo Credit: GM

5.) Automatic parking

Suggested By: DocWalt

Why it needs to die: Though the endless sea of bumper guards here in New York testify that drivers need all the help they can get when it comes to parking, automatic assistance isn't the answer. Built into the various functions of electronic steering and throttle, the added complexity of self-parking systems only makes us more complacent in not being at all aware of our surroundings. There are better ways of making people good at parking, and just taking all effort away from us isn't the way to do it.

4.) In-car social networking

Suggested By: RavetasticMonasticSlurptastic

Why it needs to die: After you crash into the car ahead of you because you weren't minding the road - that's a great time to update your Facebook status. Before then, not so much. Enabling drivers to get wrapped up in the most distracting, time consuming practice imaginable is not a good idea. What's next, in car Sudoku?

3.) Automatic braking

Suggested By: DocWalt

Why it needs to die: Tying together braking into a car's central computer nervous system is more than just a recipe for blood curdling anger when a small failure in one system all of a sudden starts affecting your brakes. At that point, you're very much SOL. More than that, it's just not good to take final control over something as important as brakes away from you, the driver.


2.) MyFord Touch

Suggested By: riddlemethat

Why it needs to die: MyFord touch has the honor of taking very simple, straightforward button-operated functions like, I don't know, making the car warmer or cooler, and replacing them with a distracting, vaguely functional and tab-filled touchscreen interface. When it works, it's annoying and keeps your eyes off the road. And that's only when it works. Reader riddlemethat is somewhat less eloquent when it comes to his assessment of the system.

"Oh let me change my radio station... okay, so I select the radio tab, now AM/FM, now type in the station frequency... okay, now let me go all the way back and make the heat a little warmer, so I select the heat/ac tab and..." Cue Crash


Photo Credit: Robert Couse-Baker

1.) Driverless cars

Suggested By: YankBoffin

Why it needs to die: Driverless cars are a great fix for the leagues of distracted drivers behind the wheel of the two-ton speed machines that clog the world's highways and byways. You know what's a better fix? Keeping drivers from distraction and giving those who are tired and overworked behind the wheel a better way to get around than a car. If you can't dream a future that has a better way of solving today's problems of traffic and accidents than just letting computers drive our cars, you need to get more creative.

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