/ Motoring

Modern cars are too technologically advanced for their own good

Endless options, multiple menus, duplicate dashboard screens… modern cars are brimming with extra features to make you feel more in control. But I personally find all these in-car gadgets have the opposite effect.

It’s 5am, I’m adjusting to being up at such an early hour and am about to endure a two-hour drive into work. It’s a freezing winter morning and my mitts are so cold it feels like they’re going to become affixed to the steering wheel. All I want to do is turn the car heater to full whack, but, to my frustration, I can’t…

This is the scenario I endured a few weeks ago when driving a Nissan Juke to the Which? office. I imagine some of you are already assuming that this was the result of either a fault with the card or my incompetence – well, you’re wrong.

The real cause of these highly irritating events was inadequate and inconceivably poor in-car tech design. I’ll explain.

I’m losing control!

The Juke, a compact crossover between a supermini and an SUV, has two central dashboard screens: one displaying the optional sat nav and entertainment features, the other showcasing some (rather useless) driving data. The latter passes judgement on how efficiently you’re driving in eco mode and how much ‘boost’ is being used when in sport mode.

What wasn’t clear was any sort of control for the fan’s power output and direction, despite a dial which appeared to adapt the temperature.

I tried poking through all the on-screen options, rotated the fan-power dial like it was an interior-mounted spin top, and mashed as many buttons as I could set my eyes on; all while trying to concentrate on the road.

After an hour and 50 minutes of angry button punching, I finally discovered that the ‘climate’ button switched the bottom monitor from displaying driving data to showing the fan options. This also changed the names of the buttons surrounding the screen, finally letting me control the fan. Far from intuitive if you ask me.

What happened to ease of use?

Just to support my own perceptions of this crime against usability, I asked fellow members of the Which? Car team to try and make adjustments to the temperature using the same format I faced when getting in the car that morning. Inevitable failure followed.

And it’s not the first time either. It seems every new car I test features updated in-car tech that houses sub-folder after sub-folder of vital controls and information. All of which requires you to concentrate on navigating through settings, rather than focussing 100% on navigating your car! Even turning off the sat nav lady in the latest version of BMW’s iDrive system takes some working out.

To me, it almost feels like the basic controls you use every day are needlessly being hidden away in the depths of complicated new-car ‘infortainment’ systems. The 2001 car I own has an extremely basic dash layout, with all the buttons clearly marked, logically placed and within easy reach to allow quick and effortless adjustments on the move.

It feels to me ease of use in cars is going backwards due to the incorporation of, and advances in, technology. Is all this frustration really a price worth paying for the ‘extra features’ that come with modern in-car gadgets?

Is in-car technology getting too advanced at the expense of usability?

I like extra features, but car makers need to design better interfaces (52%, 71 Votes)

Yes - I get frustrated with all the multiple menus and options (39%, 54 Votes)

No - I feel more in control with all the extra features (9%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 139

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“It feels to me ease-of-use in cars is going backwards due to the incorporation of, and advances in, technology. Is all this frustration really a price worth paying for the ‘extra features’ that come with modern in-car gadgets?”
Its not the advances in technology that is causing the problems but the poor design of the interface.
Its happened in many other product groups ie TVs, kitchen appliances etc but its only in the last year or so that its reached normal cars.
Lets hope the ease of use of these controls gets well tested in car reviews.
At least the depth of control does allow you to alter some of the features which may irritate you with a car like the operation of the central locking/unlocking.

Monsteer says:
9 January 2012

I completely agree. I used to be a webdesigner and interface design was such a key factor in determining whether a site was user-friendly. ‘Wavechange’ mentioned the Apple philosophy and I think Apple are a great example of a company empathetically creating effective, intuitive interfaces and they completely turned around the company. It really isn’t the amount of features; rather the way they are presented, structured and accessed.

Let’s hope car companies catch on to this emerging customer demand.


Struggling to use controls diverts attention from driving so simple, easy to use controls could help avoid accidents or near misses.


Even if you can understand the controls, what happens when something breaks? Simplicity is both practical and elegant. Leave the fancy stuff for those with more money than sense and feel a little smug when it all goes wrong. 🙂


Its not a matter of fancy stuff being more expensive, the underlying technology is the same whether there are no options or layers of menu options. Its just a matter of a few extra lines of computer code which costs next to nothing.
Many of these options have been around for a while – just hidden away and accessible only by the dealers or manufacturers.


Yes, but extra complexity adds extra buttons and switches unless the designer has adopted the Apple philosophy. It is not always the high tech bits that cause the problem.


My Jaguar touch screen was supposed to make everything simple to operate and it was reasonably logical. However, when it went wrong, it took half the controls with it. No heating – (full on to the head with no option to turn it off), no rear screen demist, no front screen defrost, no entertainment no air con no sat nav and all buttons associated with the screen disabled. Faced with a bill of £2,000 plus to sort out the control unit in the boot, the car and I swiftly parted company. I don’t know whether other touch screens are set up in this way, but the Jaguar system links a lot of functions to this one DVD unit, making it complicated and expensive.

My V70 has a sensible layout and everything needed to drive the car is to hand. There are sub menues which can be controlled from the steering wheel, but these don’t need adjusting on the move and are simple to get at when stationary. I chose extras which I thought would be useful and I don’t regret any of these as they add function and pleasure to the journey. I enjoy my car and don’t find the technology intrusive, complicated or frustrating. One of its greatest strengths is that it simply gets on with the task of getting us where we want to go and never feels anything other than capable and well sorted. So, no, I don’t necesarily find modern cars confusing and complicated provided they are reliable and well engineered. I haven’t played with an i drive or the Merc/ Audi equivalent. These might alter my view.


Try a Morris Minor, with the optional heater.


I agree all the basics and essentials should be controlled by simple switches and knobs.
All the options can be left to the touch screen or equivalent menu system. A bit like some of the well designed Audio Visual equipment which have only the basic volume and channel switches on “display” and the optional switches hidden behind a panel.


Morris Minor? My first car. I paid a fiver for it, the farmer turfed out the chickens and off I drove.

Mr Eric Stewart says:
30 December 2011

After months of dealing with Renault Dealers on the faults on my 2007 Grand Scenic like my all dashboard information totally disappearing, Heater/Air Con Fan switch burning out, and electric windows failing, I am really sick of the so called technological advances that are being quoted to us as ‘making our driving experience better’……They don’t, they are useless, time consuming, and very expensive because they can only be repaired by the ‘Renault Dealers’ themselves on their own DIAGNOSTIC machines !


…and there I was thinking my car was cool because it tells me how many miles of petrol I have left.


My 2001 Toyota Avensis is easy – most of the controls you can preset (radio stations etc), simple but effective heating and climate controls and cd player.
The lighting and wiper controls are all on the steering column as are the lighting controls.
The only other controls give you average mpg to date, and approx how many miles petrol are left.
My first car was an Austin A40 countryman – an early version of a hatchback. It was very simple and never broke down. Rusted through by the age of 6 years though. My present Avensis is 10 years old and I have yet to see ANY rust – now that is progress !


I think the vast majority of bells, whistles and gizmos are unnecessary for a car to perform it’s primary function. Having said that many of us love them and we can very easily convince ourselves they are essential.
Manufacturers and their marketing people know this, they know gizmos sell cars and we the suckers play along.
It reminds me of the old days when Europeans gave natives shinny trinkets to get them on side before taking their country. Today it’s marketing people, high tec gizmos and bank balances.
Some elements of human nature never change.
I try to subscribe to the elegance of simplicity, but like every one of you I’ll get suckered into paying for “essential” gadgets and gizmos sometimes.

Be interesting to see what would happen if a car maker made “simplicity” and “low cost” their sales strategy? Wonder how many of the car buying public would embrace this concept and how many would reject it in favour of the latest high tec, “practically drives itself and even makes tea for you” approach, as we have now?
The poll suggests perhaps we really are all simple natives at heart, easy to win over?


The more things you have in a car the more things can go wrong so the less the better as far as I’m concerned. I’m afraid that many people are gadget freaks and just can’t resist the latest gizmo. How many people have bought the latest smartphone but only use about 10%, or less, of its capabilities?

Margie says:
6 January 2012

I found the complicated voice operated controls in the current Fiesta over facing, plus poor visibility (poor design) prevented me from buying one. Up till then I was very happy with my older model Fiesta. Some features like auto lights and wipers (which I scoffed at once), climate control with one touch demist, are very useful, they were already installed in my pre reg car, a Renault Sport Tourer, which I love, tho not the dealers – that said they are cleaning up their act. After my last visit for a service I had a call from their head office to ask if I was satisfied with their work and customer service. Got to be an improvement – not relevant to the topic but feel they need some praise for this.


I haven’t got the latest high tech car..but I feel that the car (computer) is doing most of the driving.for instance, when I am trying to slow down without changing gears..the car or should I say pc speeds up..it says to prevent stalling..appears to be dangerous in adverse weather conditions (ie. snow and ice) where braking could be difficult. Having owned some classic cars (Morris Minor) being one of them, there is less to distract you from essentially driving correctly. Not too dissatified but..given the chance would not hesitate to purchase a classic car, or at least one that only has a pc controlled engine.

Ian Hazell says:
7 January 2012

I feel that car makers have lost sight of the function of a car: to get from A to B. When will one of them come up with a device which does this with the minimum of frills & fuss…. a modern 2Cv?
A car which can be easily cleaned out, has plastic wipe clean seats, non electric windows and locks, has a maximum speed of about 80mph and is simple to service at any service station.
The nearest tinny on the market at the moment is a basic Panda, but even that has electric windows & locking …… Why?


I have spent a lot of money on my car, having problems with electric windows and central locking fixed. A replacement key was also expensive.

On the other hand, the air conditioning is still working fine on Golf 4, which is nearly ten years old. I would not want a car without air conditioning, which is also useful to clear condensation in the winter months.

Many of us say we would prefer a more utilitarian vehicle, but I wonder if there is really a big enough market.

7 January 2012

I have recently just bought a new yaris with the so called touch and go satnav/radio/bluetooth system.
The instruction book for this is 210×150 10mm thick, 208 pages most of wich i don,t understand but then again i am 75.
You are right things are getting far too complicated especially for my age group! If the so called computer age group are having difficulties what chance have we got.


Completely agree.
Many don’t even realise what the “Caps Lock” key does.
Sorry couldn’t resist it.


There is another side to this issue.

All the extra electronics consume power. No problem when the car is moving – the amount of energy is very small – but that changes when you park.

The latest BMWs include battery charging as you brake – seems like a nice environmental economy – but if you have not been using the brakes the battery charge level can drop to 60%.

So you park the car at an airport and go on holiday …..

The battery is not fully charged, all the electronics are still consuming power (they cannot be turned fully off as the alarm system, remote unlock etc will fail). This can be well over 100mA. Not much you may think but that totals 20 AmpHr a week. A two year old battery in winter might only have half of its original 70AH available – that’s if it was fully charged! At 60% charge the car might not start after little over a week.

There have been occasions reported on the BMW forums (eg http://x3.xbimmers.com/forums/showpost.php?p=9222135&postcount=20 ) where warning messages occur when the car is left for only 10 days. They have even been reported where cars have been driven a few miles a day. BMW dealers have responded that they should be driven for longer or if left in the garage should be on a trickle charger.

So what happens if the car is left at an airport while you are away on business for a month (or even are able to take 1 months holiday)?

The car displays a message to say that ancillary circuits have been turned off to conserve battery energy – Does this include the alarm? We don’t know.
Car battery life decreases enormously if the charge level ever gets below 10% – How long will the battery last if the car is regularly parked without use? To cope with the brake recharge systems and the stop-start energy saving, the batteries are very expensive to replace.

I used BMW as an example above – it seems the new Jaguars are even heavier in battery drain when standing unused.

It’s very nice to be able to walk up to your car with key in pocket and the doors unlock, your seat & mirrors all adjust to your personal settings and you can get in and drive away – if the car will start …

Personally I feel that all manufacturers should provide the detailed figures on static battery drain resulting from all these new electronic systems.

All4One_One4All says:
11 February 2012

The recent snow has meant that I unfortunately had to drive 120 miles in bad weather from Newcastle to Hull in a few centimetres of snow.

I’ve done this journey now in a variety of cars, but a new car’s performance was so appalling, I though I’d share my experiences.

Ford Fiesta XR2: No electronic aids.
Too light for the wide low profile tyres, it tended to float on the slush. If the weather was bad, I’d put 3 bags of sharp sand in the three spare footwells and a couple in the boot to get the wheels to push down and displace the slush. Difficult to drive, but it would go were other vehicles got stuck.

Vauxhall Astra GSi 16V 150PS (1992 model): Engine Management Unit, and Electronic Traction Control (with individual wheel breaking), Anti-lock Braking System.
In spite of the really low profile very wide tyres, the electronic aids in this car are outstanding on ice, slush, snow, and combinations. The traction control system will drive the vehicle up slick ice covered slopes sufficiently steep to cause the vehicle to slide back down the moment one stops, puts the brakes on, and turns the engine off. The ABS is useless in snow and can’t be turned off (as is common in vehicles sold in snowy countries). Luckily, the fuse that controls the ABS doesn’t control anything else that’s critical, so one can disable it. This was then an impressive vehicle full-stop.

Vauxhall Corsa SXi 1.2 (2002 model): No electronic aids.
Thinner higher profile tyres and lack of ABS made a simple vehicle reasonable on flat surfaces only. Incidentally, it survived being driven through floods in York with water levels up to the front lower edge of the bonnet. When my wife made it back to Hull, the top of the engine was covered in grass, twigs, and other bits of debris showing just how high the water level had been in the engine compartment.

Honda Jazz 1.4i (2010 model): ABS and something call Enhanced Stability Programme (or something).
Quite easily the worst car I have ever driven in snowy conditions. As soon as one front wheel spins slightly, it backs the power off completely. If one is going up a very slight incline and first one wheel spins and then the other, the electronics backs off the power so rapidly that the vehicle just stops. Honda needs to reconsider the ESP? programming and introduce individual wheel braking.
Having had the Jazz for over a year, I’d never buy another. They may be reliable, but that’s because there isn’t anything complex, modern, or useful; and what is provided is cheap and tacky – the rear windscreen wiper only wipes a quarter circle, the Astra & Corsa wipe twice as much (a semicircle), but that requires a bit more engineering. Honda have increased reliability by making everything work less well or do less, right from the start. I think the target customer is a gaga OAP that has never driven a car manufactured since the 1960s, has no experience of what can be achieved, and is too stupid to spot, for example, that other cars rear wipers wipe more of the rear windscreen, etc. The steering wheel obstructs the speedo; the instrument lights are far too bright and can’t be dimmed (more functionality that can’t go wrong because it’s not there). The ‘A’ pillars are far too thick, whole Smart cars can hide behind them never mind cyclists and bikers. In a trend that I find infuriating, the rear view mirror is too low and provides another massive blind spot. Car design now should include (minimum) percentage unobscured view figures.


Remarkable detail but nothing on the most important part of all which is the tyres.

The tyres are the only part of the car in contact with the road; rubbish tyres and it does not matter what vehicle you are in. So with due respect, and I believe there is a grain of truth to the attributed causes in the example, if you are on barely legal tyres life will be horrible in slush, snow and rain compared to a new set or less worn set.

Please note that the main tyre manufacturers have over the last 18 months introduced tyres suited to our wet and generally cold island. The idea that summer tyres are the best set is probably promoted by manufacturers because they are the cheapest to make and fit on new cars.


It is worth bearing in mind that when properly inflated the point of contact between the tyre and the road is no bigger than a penny coin. That small area has to perform well under acceleration, braking, turning, kinetic forces, road camber, and rolling road-wear. Miracles.


I rather thought that the area in contact with the road was related to tyre pressure. So suppose a car weighs 3000 lb (old money, sorry) and the tyres are inflated to 30 psi, each tyre would have 25 sq ins in contact with the road (if the weight were equally distributed).


A horse-drawn coach with iron-covered wheels might have a contact area about the size of a penny.


Curious ideas!

“How Much Rubber Do You Have?
At VDI we tend to be anal about “The Patch”. We check tire pressures often. In our opinion you have to know the size of the contact patch your vehicle creates. Here is how we do it – jack up your vehicle, put ink on the bottom of the tire, and let the car down on a piece of paper (we use finger print ink). Have someone keep their foot on the brake as you let the vehicle down, it keeps the tire from rolling, and lower the tire on the paper – the tire will leave a mark on the paper that represents the tire contact patch. The paper should be outline paper divided in one inch blocks, it makes measuring the contact patch easier.
Once done you have a “picture” of the tire contact patch, and can easily measure the size of the patch in square inches (width of the patch times the height of the patch). If you take that number multiply it by four that is how much rubber is on the road.
In our vehicles, police package Crown Vics with P225/60R16 tires with 32 PSI, we have 36.75 square inches per tire (the drawing is not to scale) and all four tires will give us a static contact area of 147 square inches of rubber touching the road. The size of the patch is a function of the load on the tire. Using the science of Vehicle Dynamics VDI simulates various loads on the patch for different scenarios – from the analysis we acquire the information needed to coach the student through the scenarios.”


That makes sense, Malcolm, and I wouldn’t dispute it because physics is not my strong point; but 25 sq ins seems rather a large contact area unless the vehicle is static, the road surface is perfectly flat, and the tyre has no lateral curvature. I thought that for a rolling vehicle at speed and under dynamic conditions the contact area would be much less. No wonder engines have to work so hard to combat friction and resistance. Road surfaces have to perform miracles as well to prevent skidding.

Wavechange – Pennies were much bigger in the days of horse-drawn coaches and now I know why: the road surfaces were so bad.


Not good over potholes. Don’t forget the horses have a much bigger contact area – ask your groom.


Seems a long winded way when you can calculate the size if you have a tire (ugh – tyre) pressure gauge and know the weight of the vehicle.


John, the patch size on the various tyres will change as you go over bumps, go round corners, brake, accelerate but I presume the total contact area of all four tyres will reflect the weight plus any dynamic forces. Look at the bulge in the tyre and the flat at the bottom to judge the area.


I f you can wait, Malcolm, I’ll do that in the morning when it’s light.

Our tyres seem quite wide so there will be quite a large patch. I must have been thinking of well-inflated bicycle wheels originally.

The more rubber on the road the greater the stress on the tyre, of course, as well as on the steering and suspension.

Malc.Moore says:
11 December 2012

I worked for Peugeot for many years why every Car is more expensive now years ago you got basic ; standard&De-lux.UK public wanted more than 3 basic colors they also wanted extras like fitted Radio no one wanted to pay for the extras so the foreign imports won.Interior UK public wanted more than 3 Colors of Trim&fabric.Manufacturers discovered more gadgets=higher prices from electric windows where we lost ability just just crack the window very slightly.Everyone wants high speed performance when the greater majority only drive in low speed areas.Manufacturers make a fortune out of spares& repairs hence all the special tools needed for basic repairs.The generalpublic has lost out big time our Country has lost too.Thousands were in employment direct or indirect the French saw a car as a means of getting from A to B.Now we have a nation of unemployed people cars that have so many gadgets that can only be fixed by a Computer hook up 1st.Basic Cars is not Cool to be seen in also profits are less that’s why cars of to-day are to complicated for the average person and it gets worse each time a new model comes on-stream.

R. Stringer says:
18 June 2013

For me what is paramount is how enjoyable it is to drive a car then second and almost as important is reliability/cost of repair. Almost all of the technology today does little to improve either of these fundamental factors. Much of the technology today is distracting (from driving), aids those who cannot drive or those who do not tend to their cars. As many have stated, technology adds much to initial cost of manufacturing and much more to cost/difficulty of repair.

A number of years ago I inadvertently purchased a three door VW Golf (MK4) TDI. Due to mechanical issues I ended up working on and up-grading this car substantially over the years. The simplicity of this car made it quite easy to work on despite my lack of mechanical knowledge. With no power features but the door locks, there was very little to go wrong with this car after being repaired/upgraded. At 320,000KM and much spirited driving the TDI still goes strong. The only weak point is the cheap plastic parts used in the engine and elsewhere to reduce cost and perhaps weight (= technology). In search of my next vehicle I’ve read many owner reviews. It is disheartening to learn that most issues people experience today are technology based whether electrical (navigation systems, engine management systems, ABS, tire air pressure sensors, etc.) or mechanical technology (high tech transmissions, fuel injection systems, all wheel drive systems, emissions systems, multitudes of sensors etc.).

To make matters worse we have this advancement in “technology” while the roads (I drive on) keep deteriorating along with fellow drivers ability. In the end, in my opinion, much automotive technology of recent years only benefits the manufactures. It is through the genius of marketing/advertising that consumers are convinced that it is needed or desirable. It is telling that so many mechanics view the complexity of modern cars negatively and so many consumers treat vehicles as disposable items to be rid of when a lease is up to avoid expensive repair. I could go on … but I will stop here : )

Malc.Moore says:
20 June 2013

I would like to see a greater advance on electric cars at a price that is reasonable and specially built stations at service stations where the Battery is quickly exchanged fully charged while you have a coffee and a break at supermarkets too while they shop Successive governments are to blame for the state of our roads milking the motorist but not using the taxes to repair the roads. How many times have you seen roadworks where there is 1 person using a bobcat and no one else around and no work at weekends.British car buyers are so different to the French who view it as get from A to B they don’t care so much for velour interior they content with plastic interior. R Stringer Manufacturers make massive profits from car repairs so its in their interest to make the car so complicated most cannot do DIY repairs and need special tools to do what use to be routine maintenance. Everyone knows a lease car has been hammered so you buy one of those at your risk.The quicker Radio CD players are phased out the better replaced by in built simple Radio USB players.It does not matter where you drive there is always someone on a mobile phone driving with one hand. Technology sometimes is great like power steering not many would like to go back to manual steering cars but manual windows i would favor choice but youngsters even at 6yrs old want the latest gadgets so i am afraid R.Stringer we are not the majority.


On the motorway last week I passed the wreck of what looked like a new Ford Fiesta. It had been rammed from behind by a larger car. The rear half of the Fiesta was a mangled mess of twisted metal and the impact had blown out its front windscreen. It was clear that the Fiesta had been stationary or nearly so, and that the other car had piled into it at high speed. If there had been any passengers in the back of the Fiesta they would almost certainly have died. One can only conclude that the driver of the other car had taken his eyes off the road in front of him for some seconds, possibly because he was fiddling with a menu screen. Even if that was not the cause I think it is insane to fit these things in cars. Driving today requires 100% concentration.

Malc.Moore says:
28 July 2013

I agree Driving today requires 100% concentration and sticking below speed limits in built up areas a must do but please remember a passenger can distract a driver wife or children can do it just as much as gadgets.When partners do not drive they do not realize an argument can cause a road crash.Children even more so when i was younger i remember saying to my daughter&wife shut up i need to focus on the Road so i have to disagree many gadgets these days do keep the driver informed specially if its on the Radio about road works or a traffic problem because of an accident a sat nav although i never used one can also be a help especially to those who do a lot of driving.Gadgets like reversing aids are also must useful as are high level brake lights the government should remove VAT on high level brake lights they can save many lives as well as cost to NHS.


I entirely agree that there are many different sources of distraction, which is why it is important not to add to them. I also agree that modern cars have driver aids that are very helpful, but only if they don’t divert the driver’s attention or encourage him to take his eyes off the road ahead. This is why I think that menu screens, some of which seem to require a lot of fiddling, are to my mind an insanely dangerous complication, especially as they are usually positioned below windscreen level and in the middle of the dashboard. Am I wrong?


It seems that many here feel the same way I do about some of the technology that is being put into new cars. Some of it I like, such as ABS brakes and stability control, but in recent years many of what is being put into new cars I really feel is unnecessary. In the states, GM has On-Star. I really didn’t want it, but I got a great price on the car because even though it was a brand new car, it was a model year old. I never need On-Star or had to use it, but GM doesn’t give the buyer a choice. Ford has their SYNC, another bit of technology I have no use for. Now touch screen controls are becoming standard equipment on most new cars. Give my my buttons and switches back. Why should I have to pay for these features when I don’t really want or need them. New cars are expensive as it is and if I am going to have to pay thousands for a new car, I want it the way I want it instead of what manufacturers think I want it. I have just about given up the idea of buying a new car at this point.

Ian says:
19 June 2014

Technology on cars is getting ridiculous. I want a means of transport not a complex toy which happens to also be able to get me from A to B . I like to be in control so I even dislike anti lock braking especially when linked to a button operated electric handbrake. How am I supposed to stop in the case of complete electrical failure if I have no direct mechanical connection to the brakes? Also without a mechanical handbrake I have no means of slowing down in snow when the anti-lock system completely disables the brakes.
There has to be a market for a quality car which is back to basics. The Dacia range is a good attempt, but it is cheap & cheerful car , I think that there is a big market out there for a quality car with the degree of technology of a 1980s car only updated as far as is necessary to meet legislation.


I share your concerns, Ian. Perhaps the best known example of failure in car technology is in warning light systems for reporting faults. These can be very costly to repair. In some cases there is no fault. Some drivers will carry on driving in the hope that there is no problem and will have no way of knowing if there is a real fault. If warning light systems can go wrong then perhaps automatic handbrakes etc could do the same.

When I last changed my car a couple of years ago, getting one with a spare wheel was top priority, but having a conventional handbrake was high on the list. If they prove to be reliable and and generally accepted I may reconsider. The one thing that does annoy me about my car is the fact that there are automatic headlights but no indication of when they are on. That is not always obvious in poor daytime driving conditions.

I was very suspicious of anti-lock brakes when they first appeared, but I think we would know by now if failures were causing accidents. It took some time but I am convinced that they are a benefit to the average motorist, while conceding that a highly skilled driver might manage well without them. I don’t believe that it is fair to say that abs completely disables the brakes.

With power steering and servo-assisted brakes, a failure will still allow us to steer and stop the vehicle. For some reason that I have never understood, the steering and brakes become very heavy when not assisted, but at least they still work. With the electric handbrake, there is no manual backup, which looks like poor design to me.


When ABS breaking came out years ago I was a bit suspicious about them at first. Where I live in Montana, out winters can be long and snowy. After doing a lot of reading about them early on, I saw test repoers showing that they did actually stop a vehicle in a shorter distance, I decided to give them a work out in an empty parking lot. The first thing that one has to get over is the noise. They are noisy, but they are doing their thing. Also, with ABS, you can still steer a vehicle whereas if the brakes are locked up in a skid, you have no control at all. I found it helpful in quite a few instances over the years.

As far as many, or most of the gadgets that are now being put into new cars, most of them I have no use for. My car is transportation. I don’t live in it. I don’t need to have the car read my e-mail. I have no use for bluetooth as one of the first things I do before driving is turn OFF my cell phone. Touch screen “Infotainment” systems are for me another useless feature. I can’t remember how many years ago I learned how to operate a radio. Some vehicles also have the climate controls in the touchscreen. I find that this is just another distraction that would take a drivers eyes off of the road.

Sorry, no need for this garbage. I need to pay attention to the road and be ready to avoid some other driver playing with the gadgets in their car or yapping on the cell phone.

Christina grimes says:
8 November 2016

It’s terrible, especially when it keeps telling you to STOP because brakes are faulty and they are not. Gives the driver a heart attack. All too complicated, I want to drive without interference from technology.


I have head up display that shows speed, cut-down satnav and other useful bits as they occur directly in front of me in the lower part windscreen. Important information I can see without taking my eyes off the road. I thought it a gimmick but would not now be without it.


I am hoping that the day will come when all large direction signs on the approaches to gyratories and major junctions will be replaced with a device that transmits images to the heads-up display directly in the driver’s field of vision and carries on showing the junction or roundabout layout as a moving image as the vehicle negotiates it. A further development would be to select the exit on entry and the system steers the vehicle in the right lanes at the best speeds and the correct position for leaving the junction. Satnav does it to a restricted extent in adapted and stylised plan form, and it is advisory only, but it would be good to have a driver’s-eye image in real time. The vehicle would have to have a remotely controlled camera on board of course. I wouldn’t want this on Motorways because their signs are monumental and aesthetically dramatic [although not so attractive as they were before they made the forward motorway path perpendicular rather than slightly offset to the left as on the early signs].


My satnav goes some way to this by, on major dual carriageways and motorways, displaying in the heads up a moving coloured image of the road-junction sign and the road lanes with an arrow on the appropriate one to use. It makes life a lot easier on unfamiliar roads, particularly when they are busy, at night or in bad weather.


My cheap sat-nav does this, the maps can be updated without charge, and I can get a new one if it becomes outdated. I keep cars for years and before paying for expensive technology I would want to be sure that it could be updated if required.


Approaching complex junctions with high lorries in the inside lane is the problem I was thinking about. Satnavs have certainly advanced and are probably good enough now with driverless cars on the horizon. We don’t have a satnav because we like the mental challenge but also rarely go anywhere unfamiliar [the roads don’t change very much in our part of the world – until recently Norwich was the last driving test centre without any dual carriageways accessible within the time allowed for a test, and after they built the southern bypass they had to move the DTC to be closer to it].


Too technologically advanced. I would agree with that. And building in obsolescence is always a good move for manufacturers.

And hot off the press
“Bild am Sonntag – a German publication – has found a document wherein Audi chief of powertrains Axel Eiser discusses the defeat feature and how it will be “100% active on the dyno, but only 0.01% in the hands of the customer,” making it hard for the company to claim it was the work of a small group of engineers.”