When cars are too smart - Revcounter 442

By: Guy Allen

Presented by

lexus sc400 lexus sc400

Okay, who's in charge around here?

It was Angelo on the speaking trumpet, explaining the dilemma. A friend was at the drive-in (now very much in favour thanks to social distancing) and was foiled by the electronics of those dastardly modern cars.

Once upon a time, you could light up the ignition, or accessories, and get the wipers to sweep the rain off the windscreen and keep watching the film. No-one got hurt. However his mate’s new toy insisted the burn-out-your-retinas LED headlamps had to come on as well, annoying the hell out of the cars in front, while the occupants were putting up with the insistent ‘bong-bong’ of the ‘you’re-all-about-to-die’ seat belt warning. Going to the drive-in is far more complex than it used to be.

Which got me thinking about this creep of electronic driver aids we’ve put up with over the last few decades. My 1990-ish Soarer caught me out once. It has sophisticated electronics for the time, including a weird and wonderful set of rules written into its body control module. Now most of the time any car in our back yard is left unlocked for easy access. In this case I threw a cover over it and walked away. It immediately assumed it was dark and, because it was unlocked, thought I’d like external and internal courtesy lamps lit to help find it. (Something I didn’t notice as I sauntered off.)

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Of course I did find it the next day, because it was where I left it. But now with a flat battery. Thanks. This automotive trend towards ‘smart’ cars is getting annoying. Here’s another example: I’m driving a hire car, and we’re arguing over cornering lines. True story. Muggins is wide awake and apparently taking lines through corners that the ‘lane assist’ engineers back at head office had not approved, so the wheel is arguing with me and alarms are going off. Apparently you don’t ‘flatten’ corners when the magic eye is watching, even if it’s safe to do so.

We are literally fighting for control, and I’m desperately looking for the off button. To no avail. Ironically it was probably becoming more risky as I’m physically wrestling the monster while shouting about daft design teams.

At some point, the drivers in the design teams need to take back the proverbial reins of the development. If you must have all the alleged safety nets at least have a giant red ‘in charge’ button that switches them off. I can live with the consequences.


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