Ever get the feeling automakers are trying to remove you, the driver, from the driving experience? Well you should, because they are. Here's 25 automotive technological "advancements" designed to make you irrelevant and redundant.
We're not complete Luddites, give us all iPod integration, airbags and horse-power boosting tech you want. Just don't reduce our ability to control our cars. Sadly, modern cars are doing just that. Instead of adding complication and weight, we want car manufacturers to follow Colin Chapman's advice: "Simplify, then add lightness."
Name: Electrically Adjustable Seats
What it does: Electric motors adjust car seats at the push of a button... well, at the push/pull/toggle of several buttons.
Extreme example: The massaging seats in the 2010 Ford Taurus that add two compartmented airbags and all their associated electronics and motors to the usual equipment.
Why it's redundant: The electric motors take up space, meaning seats sit higher than they need to, and add weight and complication. Manual seats are just as quick to adjust, offer a larger range of adjustment because there's no space occupied by motors, weigh less and are less likely to break.
Name: Rain Sensing Wipers and Automatic Headlights
What it does: Sensors detect the presence of rain and/or darkness then switch on the wipers, headlights or both.
Extreme example: The Adaptive Highbeam Assist system on the 2010 Mercedes E-Class, which automatically adjusts the throw and pattern of the headlights when other cars are present.
Why it's redundant: Believe it or not, humans are able to use their eyes and judgement to determine when wipers and lights are needed better than a computer. For example: when approaching a tunnel, a human can switch on the lights ahead of time. A human is less likely to have its light sensors obscured by dirt or road debris.
Name: Automatic Seatbelts
Extreme Example: Select 1980s GMs, Nissans and Civics with both automatic shoulder and lap belts. They were impossible to enter or exit.
Why it's redundant: A human is perfectly capable of fastening his or her own seatbelt and, if they're not, don't deserve the protection offered anyway. Automatic shoulder belts gave drivers a false sense of security with many failing to manually secure their lap belts. In the event of a crash their bodies would slide under the shoulder belt, meaning there was very little restraint on offer. Thankfully now defunct.
Name: Sound Pipes
Extreme Example: The 2010 Ford Mustang GT, in which an extraneous exhaust pipe is routed through the dashboard to bring engine sound into the cabin.
Why it's redundant: If cars didn't carry several hundred pounds of sound deadening, they wouldn't need extra sound pipes. The alternative, rolling down your windows, is cheaper and easier than installing a extraneous pipe.
Name: Keyless Ignition
Extreme Example: Current Mazdas just put a plastic cap over the traditional ignition slot. If you already have to twist something, why not the key?
Why it's redundant: In an attempt to overly-simplify the very complicated process of starting a car, keyless ignitions actually introduce another layer of complication and increase the risk of leaving your keys in the car. If it's not broke, don't fix it.
Name: Digital Dashboards
Extreme Example: 1988 Buick Regal
Why it's redundant: Replacing perfectly functioning and reliable instrumentation that's vital to the safe operation of a car with something that's harder to read and breaks a lot is not a good idea.
Name: Reverse Parking Sensors and Rearview Cameras
Extreme Example: The 2010 Acura MDX which offers three camera views.
Why it's redundant: If SUVs weren't so huge and didn't have such bad vision, you'd be able to park them without using the same level of technology it takes to dock at the International Space Station. An added bonus to better vision? Increased safety!
Name: Non-Defeatable Traction and Stability Control
Extreme Example: The BMW X6 M which uses its stability control system to defy the laws of physics and make a 5,000 Lbs SUV go around corners.
Why it's redundant: Believe it or not, before the advent of traction and stability control, human beings were able to use something called "skill" to safely operate their vehicles. The systems not only reduce the level of interaction and therefore attention required of a driver, but also reduce control off-road, in the snow and in other slippery conditions where wheelspin is actually a good thing.
Name: Gasoline/Electric Hybrid Powertrains
Extreme Example: The 2010 Honda Insight, which is actually much less efficient than the faster, better driving, more practical, diesel-equipped European Honda Civic.
Why it's redundant: There's better technology out there. Diesel engines cost less, consume less energy and resources in production, are far less complicated and are capable of equal or greater fuel-economy.
Name: Automatic Parallel Parking Systems
Extreme Example: The Lexus LS600h which is capable of selecting an appropriate parking space then putting itself in that place with very little input from the driver.
Why it's redundant: The human mind is also able to determine the location of an appropriate parking space then maneuvering a vehicle into that space. There's a reason parallel parking is part of the driving test.
Name: Radar Cruise Control and Electronic Crumple Zones
Extreme Example: The 2010 Mercedes E-Class which is not only capable of maintaining a constant distance from other vehicles on the highway, but, when it determines a collision is imminent, applying 100% of the braking force to reduce the force of the crash.
Why it's redundant: Humans are also able to determine appropriate following distances and applying 100% of the brakes to avoid a collision. Being required to do so maintains a consistently high level of attention which can also avoid other dangerous situations.
Name: Intelligent Gearboxes
Extreme Example:The VW DSG ‘box which, in automatic mode, is able to learn when a driver is operating the vehicle in a sporting manner, then adjusting shift points and times to suit.
Why it's redundant: a human being equipped with a manual gearbox is additionally capable of predicting what gear will be required in the near future, placing the vehicle in that gear ahead of time and therefore being prepared for, rather than simply respond to, a situation.
Name: Automated Manual Gearboxes
Extreme Example: A Formula One car.
Why it's redundant: manual gearboxes are more reliable and more versatile, with the human-applied clutch able to deliver smooth progress at slow speeds.
Name: Automatic Climate Control
Extreme Example: The 2010 Acura MDX which is able to use GPS to determine the location of the sun and adapt the climate control to blow cooler on the sunny side of the vehicle, guaranteeing a perfectly even temperature throughout the passenger cabin.
Why it's redundant: How many sensors, motors and computer chips does it take to achieve the above? With traditional air conditioning and heaters, you're simply able to adjust the temperature as needed. Nothing more is required.
Extreme Example: The 2009 BMW Z4 which features both brake-by-wire and steer-by-wire.
Why it's redundant: Drive-by-wire systems reduce weight and complication and, in the case of steer-by-wire, improve fuel economy by eliminating the need for a power steering pump. But, they reduce feel. In the case of the Z4, this lack of feel spoils an otherwise truly impressive sports car.
Name: Satellite Navigation
Extreme Example: The in-development Microsoft heads-up-display system which will project a ghost vehicle in front of your car, then allow you to follow it rather than respond to spoken or visual instructions.
Why it's redundant: For centuries, humans have managed to navigate with little more than a paper map and a compass. No matter how slick the graphics, satellite navigation systems have not yet surpassed this ability.
Name: Active Sound Cancellation
Extreme Example: The 2010 Acura MDX, which projects mirror-image sound waves of "undesirable" engine and road noises, canceling them out.
Why it's redundant: Being inundated with engine and wind noise your whole life will slowly make you deaf, which is kind of nature's own Active Sound Cancellation.
Name: Adaptive Suspension
Extreme Example: The Variable Orifice Dampers in the 2010 Cadillac SRX
Why it's redundant: Intended to offer both a smooth ride and good handling, adaptive suspension makes sacrifices in both to offer a limited ability to deliver either. Low unsprung weight and high quality dampers have yet to be surpassed in their ability to delivery optimal vehicle dynamics, they just don't sound as sexy on a Monroney.
Extreme Example: Ford Sync 3.0
Why it's redundant: Any vehicle function that's too complicated to be achieved by button, lever, wheel or pedal is unnecessary for vehicle operation. Call people, get directions and drink your coffee before setting out on a journey.
Name: Blind Spot Detectors
Extreme Example: The 2009 Audi Q7; it's blind spot warning lights are blindingly bright and overly sensitive.
Why it's redundant: By styling vehicles with small glass houses, designers are creating unnecessarily large blind spots, thereby creating the need for detectors. Install function before form and this wouldn't be necessary.
Name: Night Vision
Extreme Example: The 2010 Mercedes E-Class which paints the road ahead with infrared light then detects these reflections with windshield-mounted sensors.
Why it's redundant: Cars have headlights don't they? If it's too dark to see, slow down.
Name: Automatic Emergency Brakes
Extreme Example: The Honda Pilot has an automatic transmission, but still has a system capable of holding it steady on steep hills.
Why it's redundant: Equipped with two hands and two feet, humans have traditionally been capable of operating either a hand or foot emergency brake. Automatic or electronic brakes simply replicate that ability poorly and make it impossible to perform handbrake turns.
Name: Attention Assist
Extreme Example: The 2010 Mercedes E-class uses an array of sensors to monitor steering wheel input, eye movement and seating position, all to tell if you're dozy.
Why it's redundant: If you're tired, take a break. No engineering teams needed.
Name: Lane Monitoring
Extreme Example: The Citroen C4's seat gives you a pleasant vibration in your nether regions if it detects you're departing your lane on the highway.
Why it's redundant: Like Attention Assist, if you're incapable of paying enough attention to stay in your lane, you shouldn't be driving. Humans will develop a false sense of security due to the system and use it as an excuse to not pay attention.
Name: Rear Seat Entertainment Systems
Extreme Example: Some minivan/SUV systems allow 3 seperate movies to be played; two in the middle row and one in the rear.
Why it's redundant: When I was a kid I looked out the window on road trips. If I complained, my dad spanked me. If your spoiled brats won't shut up, don't buy them an expensive DVD player. Instead, hit them. It's free and as an added bonus, it builds character.