By on August 27, 2015

2015.5 Volvo Sensus Connect Infotainment Navigation

I’m the type of guy that reads the instruction manual. Admittedly, I’m in the lower quartile of the 1 percent of humans who actually read the book, and there are even fewer still who admit to reading it — most people don’t, and if they do, it’s only when they need to.

But why? Don’t people know that they’re full of good stuff?

Did you know the newest generation Mini Cooper has launch control? I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t spot it in the manual. Also, I wouldn’t have known how to sync via Bluetooth to a circa-2013 Volkswagen car (the PIN is buried in the manual, it’s 1212 or something like that, if I recall correctly).

According to a recent report, most new car buyers don’t know what their cars do, and quite frankly, they don’t care. They should.

Admittedly, carmakers aren’t tech companies. The latest and greatest is under the hood and usually not at your fingertips. But most people find that their phones are a better source of information and directions, and that’s probably not the safest way to drive a car.

Instead of competing with tech companies, I’d prefer carmakers to contract — but that’s not conducive to a better bottom line [or with developing a product that’s visually and functionally different from the competition —Mark].

Drivers should care about the tech going into their cars because it could make their lives safer — and easier.

But maybe I’m wrong. So what say you, B&B? Do you care about in-car tech? Should automakers improve or outsource? Is there any tech that should be in cars that isn’t already?

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102 Comments on “QOTD: Do You Care About The Latest and Greatest Tech?...”

  • avatar

    I have a car with a LOT of modern tech. Do I care about most of it? No. Do I care about some of it? Absolutely. The ideal in my mind is to have SOME tech.

    Lane departure: No (Every time I go over a crosswalk, I swear…)
    Collision avoidance: No (Mine likes to go off for inanimate objects!)
    Parking sensors: Surprisingly, yes
    Seat heaters/coolers: Oh god yes
    Bluetooth: Damned straight
    Back-up camera: Yeah, it’s nice, but I could do without
    Power Seats: Nope
    Inflatable lumbar support: Nope
    18 speaker sound system: Nope
    Dual zone climate control: It’s nice, but I wouldn’t pay extra
    Leather seats: Yup
    Leather interior: Worth it
    Nav system: I’d probably pay for it again. I use it often enough, even without a destination set. (“What’s that road coming up? Is that where I turn?”)
    XM radio: Nope
    Push-button start: Nope, but it’s fun
    Doors that sense key proximity: Only if I never have to remove my key from my pocket for anything. My car’s system, I’d pay for again
    Adaptive headlights: I don’t have ’em, but I want them
    Stability control: HELL no.
    Skip-shift: I would pay extra to GET RID of this feature.
    ABS: Yup
    OnStar: Nope
    Heated mirrors: Yes
    Heated windshield wipers: Yes
    Rear window shades: Wish I had ’em
    Rear A/C zone: Wish I had it
    Rear seat heaters/coolers: Wish I had it
    Sunroof: Fun, but I’d rather have the headroom
    Soft-close doors: I never understood it

    Nannies: Oh lord, I wish they didn’t have nannies on my car. My wife can’t input directions on my nav system unless we’re stopped. I can’t read a text on my screen unless I’m stopped – But I have to look over at my screen to push a button to play the message through the speakers. That doesn’t work sometimes, so I have to watch the screen long enough to see it change… Between the locating the screen, locating the button, pushing the button, waiting for the voice to go through the date information, then the sender, then the text, which is sometimes mangled because of txt-speak, then looking back over at the screen to locate the dismiss button so I can get my nav screen back, then pushing that, then pushing it again because it didn’t work the first time… It’s literally safer just to pull my phone out of my pocket and check the text. If the nannies didn’t exist, I could look over at the screen, then back at the road. I’d be watching the road while my brain processed the text information. It’d take half the time. But no, the freaking lawyers have to get involved…

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      100 percent in agreement with TeeJayHoward. Except I’ll skip the parking sensors and opt for the backup camera. I’m certainly no luddite but just because I can have extra technology involved with many procedures, operations and functions doesn’t necessarily mean I should. And I do read the manual. BTW, I’m trying to find out how to disarm the warning screen from Subaru of America’s lawyers that appears on the head unit’s touchscreen every time I start up my 2016 Forester.

    • 0 avatar

      Stuff I find useful & would pay for:
      Parking, blind-spot, & rear cross-traffic sensors. If cars had decent visibility, cameras wouldn’t be needed, but here we are.
      Traction control.
      One-touch up/down windows.
      Auto-climate if it’s properly programmed. One of my cars is, and it’s good. Another is not, and it’s worthless. Rear AC zone also seems worthwhile.
      Keyless if it’s properly programmed. One of my cars is, and it’s genuinely enjoyable. Another is not, and it’s more of a pain than a benefit.
      Map (but not nav). I have the rare condition known as “knowing where I’m going before I leave.” I don’t need directions, but I do find the map useful. I don’t use it very often, but I do like it.
      HD terrestrial radio.
      USB ports. I would never bother with any other method of personal music in cars. (But again, if it’s properly programmed.)
      System configs that let me turn off multi-blink signals, set door lock logic, etc. Again, one car has good settings options, and it’s great. The other is virtually worthless.
      LED lighting.

      Stuff I wouldn’t pay for:
      Touch screens–burn them all in hell. Internet. SiriusXM. OnStar. Bluetooth. “Apps.”
      Heated seats, mirrors, or anything else beyond std defrost.
      Leather, except what my hands touch: steering wheel, gear shift, arm rests. The same for “soft-touch.” If I don’t touch it all the time, being durable & easy to clean is infinitely more important.
      Auto wipers, auto headlights.
      Uber-adjustable seats.

      And probably a lot more that I’m not even aware of.

    • 0 avatar

      Lol, most of the stuff you listed is not modern tech. Leather seats? Dual zone climate control? Sunroofs? Lol.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m over 6′ and I still want a car with a sunroof. I don’t notice an appreciable loss of headroom and with the declination of window openings to pillbox slits limiting the greenhouse, all the more light the better. Plus, really like having it popped to release heat in the summertime.

        • 0 avatar

          I love my sunroof, and my first car is the only car I’ve ever owned without one. I’m only 5’10, but mostly torso, and I’ve never had a problem with headroom in any car I’ve owned (although I did find a friend’s first-gen Lexus ES hard to fit into).

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know why more cars don’t have heated windshield wipers. In the winter, my Audi’s system is about as effective as moving two large pencils across the screen.

      For me, I love the Bose and Concert Sound systems, absolutely love heated leather seats, but I would rather skip the automatic climate controls (What’s wrong with three knobs?), the nanny systems, and the annoying driver presets that move the seat whenever you start the car. Just let me put it in place, and leave it there!

      I can’t believe that heated windshield wipers have never caught on….

      • 0 avatar

        1) What’s wrong with three dials is the need to either make constant adjustments or be uncomfortable. A decent auto system is set it and forget it.

        2) Your “annoying” driver preset is my godsend. Little is more uncomfortable than inadvertently trying to get behind the wheel if my wife has been driving. I just don’t fit in the same space she does. With the automatic system linked to the fob, that doesn’t happen.

  • avatar

    I do read the owner’s manual when I buy a car. As far as the latest tech – hey! you’re looking at someone who bought an already-outdated car when I bought my 2012 Impala just over three years ago!

    That being said, I could use an updated auto with such goodies as a back-up camera, blind-spot awareness and possibly a nice, big touch-screen. Those first two items would really aid me with my vision impairment, especially as I continue to get older. Thing is, in 18 months I retire and although I have mulled over either buying something new or almost new, we keep deciding to hold off until we HAVE to make a change. Meanwhile, I just keep rolling along in my 3-year-old-now-75,000-mile-Impala-last-of-the-W-bodies-car! Wifey is doing the same in her 2002 CR-V.

    Trouble is, both of these cars are as tough as nails and may last forever and won’t be going away any time soon. My Impala LTZ is by far the best of the entire W-body like.

    I suppose we’ll see how things go as to whether we buy something or not.

    • 0 avatar

      “possibly a nice, big touch-screen.”

      This is where I am encouraged by Android Auto and the Apple equivalent. The phones are updated/replaced far more often than the cars, bringing the newest capabilities, connectivity, and whiz-bang interface(s) with them.

      Other than things that are directly pertinent to the car (oil pressure, temperatures, and other telemetry), I’d prefer the touch screen be a mirror of the phone; perhaps with a simplified “car mode” interface. The car can serve as a mobile charger, and let the phone do the computing–especially the navigation.

    • 0 avatar


      Manuals and the knuckleheads that write them….

      Every car I have recently purchased have poorly written manuals. Just trying to re code security codes for doors and keys are mind blowing.
      Trying to find the route to program your oil change is an hour! Not to mention the exact oil requirements…This is listed under fluids OR under maintenance.

      I can see now why my son entered a masters program in Tech Writing and tells me they are in high demand and paid well…because they are wanted.

      This all said, I really agree with you and not TeeJayHoward about the certainly useful and important touches like a backup camera. And side/rear warning. These have saved me. my car and others from harm.

      And perhaps it is a sign of my over the top life…but I do love getting approaching restaurants and fuel stations as I drive long distances. I have even used the navigation to find types of shopping in areas I am not familiar with.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with Zackman. I have an 08 xB and an 07 Element, they’ve got zero tech aside from traction control and aren’t even half way to end of life, and I’m OK with that. Launch control on a Mini? That’s nuts, I don’t think I ever broke the front wheels loose on my Clubman. Admittedly, I never actually tried. I do like back up cameras, but can live without them.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I’ve attempted to respond to this in several different ways. Rather than make a long diatribe I will make short bullet points:

    Cars are more powerful than ever. Did regular folk need traction control (et al) when 180hp was impressive? Probably not. But now when 250hp is nothing special it’s a different story.

    Do you use your phone as your watch because you have it out every few minutes anyway? Then you are probably thrilled with connecting your phone to your car.

    At one point in time we were all driving around just fine with X, Y, and Z. When most this and that came out everyone thought it was unnecessary. But once we are exposed to new tech, get used to having it in our lives, we decide it’s ok and want it in our cars from now on.

    The main reason people don’t know about the tech in their cars is because they didn’t really want it to begin with, it was just bundled in when they asked for a sunroof.

    I really want to get a new SS. If I did, I would not use 90% of the advanced technology in it because I’m in my late 30s, married and live in the suburbs, not on social media, have a 15-25 minute commute without much traffic, like specific music and talk radio, and very rarely go on a road trip more than an hour. So I am not incentivized to figure out all the neat tricks since I don’t spend enough time in the car. Which leads me to wonder, why would I spend $45k on an SS? Which is why I haven’t bought an SS.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Why would you get an SS?

      Cause they are awesome, and incredibly unique if you can find one with a 6MT. The one that I rode in, sounded amazing. Basically a Camaro with a usable interior.

    • 0 avatar

      “Cars are more powerful than ever. Did regular folk need traction control (et al) when 180hp was impressive? Probably not. But now when 250hp is nothing special it’s a different story.”

      I acknowledge that loss of traction is aplified by increases in horsepower, but that doesn’t mean it was never an issue. Traction control to me is just as essential as anti-lock brakes. You never need it until the emergency comes.

      My first BMW M (2000) had traction control. 240hp in a 2400lb car btw. I never noticed it until on one particular occasion, going too fast on a country road, my car drived out over the crested portion of the highway exiting the corner. The way that car came right back under my control amazes me to this day. I have been a huge fan ever since.

    • 0 avatar

      “I really want to get a new SS, if I did I would not use 90% of the advanced technology.”

      Either you love it and want to drive it or you don’t. My situation is very similar. 20 minute commute, barely break 45mph, married, maybe a couple years older than you, sort of suburbs. I bought a 911, I have a third car, and I still bike into work when the weather is good. It’s still a fun, amazing car at 30mph. I LOVE driving it. It is the most well rounded, confidence inspiring, engaging, capable car I have ever owned and I’ve owned some great cars. Of course life is choices, and my car is loaded with tech, but its the car that matters not the tech and I just love the drive.

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        There’s a little more to it, not to get into the weeds, but it also comes down to the fact that my GTO does everything I would want the SS to do except it cost $30k less to acquire. Would parting with it to get into the SS be a wise move? 35% of me says “yes, of course, stupid!” but the other 65% is currently winning out.

    • 0 avatar

      I want you to get a SS just so one of the B&B owns one.

  • avatar

    I drove a brown 1974 Hornet coupe to pick-up pizza in another rural town at night once. It was the easiest car I’ve ever driven, and with the instrument lights completely off, I could operate all the controls by touch. So no, I don’t care, just give me good audio system, and no interior light pollution.

  • avatar

    “According to a recent report, most new car buyers don’t know what their cars do, and quite frankly, they don’t care. They should”

    no, they shouldn’t. All tech anyone wants in their cars comes with them in their phones. I do not need or want VW’s or Ford’s attempt at emulating anything. I just want my phone to work in my car in the same way a $35 ChromeCast works on my TV at home. That’s it.

    I don’t want curving headlights. I don’t want beepers that tell me where cars are around me. I want a car that works simply and efficiently. that’s what everyone wants.

  • avatar

    I love in-car tech and gadgets, and I enjoy getting to know each and every setting and capability. I used to read the manual but now I find that online forums and youtube vids are more helpful and efficient, along with good old-fashioned fiddling. That said, in-car tech is pretty simple to master and figure out compared to, say, Microsoft Word.

  • avatar

    All the tech and gadgets are fun in new cars, but the problem is the way manufacturers package it all. I think there would be a much higher percentage of people using what’s available to them if they didn’t have to select a package with seven items just to get Bluetooth. I’ve got a $6k tech package (bought used, I’m not crazy) on my car because I wanted the upgraded sound system and active headlights. I don’t need bluetooth, I don’t need or want the blind spot monitoring, parking sensors, back up cam, sync, and a bunch of other stuff that’s tacked on with it. I’ll end up using some of it just because is there, but I’d love an a la cart ordering option to simplify my vehicle of choice in the future.

  • avatar

    I chuckled when I thought of my own experiences with cars and technology.

    I’ve owned a number of GM products over the last 15 years, many with power locks. I was always irritated that I had to push the button twice to lock the doors. It wasn’t until about a year ago I realized that if you push the button once and shut the door, the locks will activate about 5 seconds later, leaving you free to walk away from the car. I probably had several cars with this feature and never knew about it…

    OTOH, I work in printing and publishing, and the constant drive for efficiency in the business puts us on the bleeding edge of computer technology. We go through a lot of technology and I’m still surprised at how fast some things become outdated. I shudder to think about some of these cars serviceability in the future as systems and software get updated and obsoleted. I’m hoping Apple & Android do a good job with their packages for the automakers.

    Otherwise, I’ll be looking for a Model T to drive…

    • 0 avatar

      Speaking of outdated, I have a Galaxy S5 that’s 14 months old. Top of the line when I bought it, but I the operating system isn’t compatible with Google’s car systems. Unless I want to upgrade to the new one, which wouldn’t even be an option if my phone was a month older.

      • 0 avatar

        Android Auto is available for my cheap Moto E.
        Just have to get a car that supports it.

        • 0 avatar

          The Moto E is solid. I like Motorola’s recent Android phones. Bloatware is down, stock Android is up, and everything works.

          • 0 avatar

            Camera sucks and no flash, but it only cost me $60 so I can live with it.

          • 0 avatar

            Yeah, Moto’s cameras aren’t great. That’s been the weak point of every Motorola smartphone I’ve had. My current Droid Turbo has an above average one.

            However, even on the MotoE, the hardware works.

  • avatar

    The question is the wrong thing to ask.

    The newness of technology is irrelevant. The usefulness of technology is what matters. Most new tech is not useful, and *should* fail through consumer rejection and disuse.

    Also, the word “tech” doesn’t capture the right idea. Auto-braking and emissions controls are tech, and they are great in cars. The “tech” that is being talked about here is consumer electronics, which does little if anything to make drivers safer. If you need a phone or nav to drive, something is wrong.

  • avatar

    I drive what passes for a stripper subcompact these days. I don’t long for the in-car tech I don’t have. I do lust for the Fiesta ST I probably really want, but just wasn’t willing to stretch my budget for (or a hypothetical modern equivalent to an E30 touring that doesn’t exist).

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Nannies, please – I want BLIS and high speed autobraking. But I’ve got some time for the prices to come down, the kid’s learners permit is still a couple of years away.

    As for the consumer facing side, a visor Bluetooth speaker is enough for my phone connectivity needs. The smart head units are a bit pricey at the moment

    • 0 avatar

      I find BLIS to be the most useless and intrusive option and a total PITA. Just correctly adjust your mirrors and save the $3k.

      • 0 avatar

        Agreed completely. Mirrors really help- especially if you go to a larger vehicle. I’ve learned how to back a trailer while looking only at the mirrors. You learn a lot about car position.

        Tip: The mirror is NOT for looking at the side of your car.

  • avatar

    Latest/greatest interior in-car tech not so much, I test drove a new Outback with adaptive cruise control and I just couldn’t bring myself to trust it. Now heated seats and mirrors, and heated wiper rests, that is something I can get behind. A good audio system with a USB/AUX input, and cruise control and basic power accessories, and A/C, that is all I could ever ask for.

    My ideal daily driver would be something like a show-room fresh 1996 Camry, with the powertrain from the current 2015 Camry. I think we might be at a zenith of simple-enough, efficient-enough, incredibly reliable powertrains with the last remaining traditional port injected, naturally aspirated engines coupled to traditional 5,6 speed automatic and manual transmissions.

    • 0 avatar

      I just this week replaced my 1996 Avalon XLE. That car comes from a time when money was spent on building things well with quality materials. I was unable to find a non-luxury car with the same feeling of quality as that Avalon, at least within my budget of less than $12k (2009 Maxima came close). I fear that auto makers are focusing on useless “tech” at the expense of overall quality.

  • avatar

    I care about in-car technology. Automakers should be improving and outsourcing this technology for better customer satisfaction. The cars with more standard features/technology and safety equipment are the cars I buy.

  • avatar

    Not even a little bit.I like cars that are simple,handle well and are dependable.I only want something beeping at me at home when it’s time to pull some meat out of the smoker.

  • avatar

    As an old guy with failing eyes I can’t see the road and read the screen anyway. Also Acura retails the Tech package for $3500.

  • avatar

    Stuff in my F56 MINI Cooper that I’m completely sold on:

    1) LED Headlamps. They are awesome!!
    2) Active Cornering LED Headlamps. On a dark country road, they are really helpful.
    3) Head-up Display. Not a must-have, but I like it a lot. Rarely look at the actual speedometer. Great for active navigating, too.
    4) Back-up Camera with active lane guidance. Super-helpful, and good for safety.
    5) Automatic Power-folding Mirrors. Had to code for these to function the way I wanted, but love them.
    6) Front & Rear Parking Sensors — helpful
    7) Auto-headlamps. BMW’s are programmed JUST RIGHT, and always appropriately activated.
    8) Rain-sensing Wipers and Auto-dimming Mirrors. Used to think both of these were silly, but mine are done well, and I like them.
    9) Advanced Bluetooth: a no-brainer, and a must-have.
    10) Auto-climate: I like it a lot, and mine works well, but not a MUST-have.

    Self-parking: a gimmick, that I rarely use. It’s cool, and works well, but you need time and space (width) to use it, which is rarely available in competitive city parking situations.

    • 0 avatar

      Forgot to add: Rev-matching in my 6-speed MT: LOVE IT! Makes me appear to shift like a pro. I’m good, but it’s the pièce de résistance, which makes me seem awesome. LOL When you live in the city, and have to shift constantly, its value is not to be underestimated.

    • 0 avatar

      “Rain-sensing Wipers”

      No birds or flying bugs where you live?

      • 0 avatar

        I had rain sensing wipers on my ’08 Saturn Astra XR. Really, really, really liked this feature. Totally adjusted to the precipitation flow from light sprinkle to downpour with my only input to pump the wiper stalk once to activate it. Never had to fiddle with the “just-right” timing on the intermittent wipers seems so petty, but I really miss having this option.

  • avatar

    I think automakers have run out of ways to make the car itself better – in many ways the cars themselves are worse than in the past, so they are making cars “better” by throwing new unneeded tech gingerbread onto the cars.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    No. as a matter of fact, these things keep me from getting any new car.

  • avatar

    Only new tech I would want is adaptive cruise control. They can keep the rest… especially the abysmal infotainment systems.

  • avatar

    Automotive “tech” developed after 2000 kinda sucks.

    Some things which did exist prior to 2000:

    Trip computer
    Heated seats
    Turning lamps
    Fog lamps
    Moon/sun roofs
    Leather/patterned seats
    Dual zone climate control
    Air conditioning
    Traction control
    Fulltime AWD
    Auto transmission/transaxle
    Multiport fuel injection
    Power window/lock/mirror/seat
    Cruise control
    Auto dimming mirror
    Auto dimming of high beams (Cadillac called it “Twilight Sentinel”)
    Auto head lights
    One touch power windows

    This is all you really need.

    Have you noticed all “modern” consumer computer tech basically sucks after about 2005? I have.

    • 0 avatar

      I do like SatNav, mostly because it’s a 8″ moving map in my car. I like maps. Also, we are typically in the car 3 hours on Friday night and 3 hours on Sunday night in the summer. I like having the nav up, so even if I have to reroute, I always have a guide to our destination.

      I’m aware that this could be accomplished by a Garmin or my phone, but integrated looks better.

      • 0 avatar

        My father taught me how to read a map, good enough for me.

        • 0 avatar

          We moved across the country with no smartphones or GPS. Just a 26′ Penske truck towing a VW. My wife navigated and I drove. We had a great time.

          Heck, we drove all over the west coast with no Nav or smartphones.

          Having the Nav is soooooooo much better. I haven’t once been disappointed in it’s existence in my cars.

        • 0 avatar

          Your paper map can’t tell you that there is a traffic jam ahead and suggest a better route. Or a cop ahead for that matter.

          I too can read a paper map just fine, but a better solution exists now. I’m just not super happy about that solution being a $2000 option on the car when my phone or a $100 stand-alone gadget will do the same job just as well or better.

    • 0 avatar

      I can read maps also. But, actually unfolding and looking at a book or paper map now seems so 1980’s. Seriously, I will never own a car again without nav, even if I buy used. Even better they now do so much more than just directions. Audio integration and car features are significantly easier to use with a built in nav screen.

    • 0 avatar

      Trip computer – useful
      Heated seats – don’t care, but the wife likes them for her bad back
      Turning lamps – useful
      Fog lamps – usually misused, but damned helpful when conditions warrant them
      Moon/sun roofs – couldn’t care less
      Leather/patterned seats – not if I have any choice
      Dual zone climate control – total waste of resources
      Air conditioning – useful
      Traction control – only if you’re incompetent, or drive in snow/slush a lot
      Fulltime AWD – ibid
      Auto transmission/transaxle – useful (but not my preference)
      ABS – useful
      Multiport fuel injection – makes modern output possible with acceptable emissions
      Power window/lock/mirror/seat – yes, yes, yes, no
      Cruise control – must have option when shopping
      Auto dimming mirror – not just no, but hell no
      Auto dimming of high beams (Cadillac called it “Twilight Sentinel”) – ibid
      Auto head lights – ibid
      One touch power windows – handy to have

    • 0 avatar

      “Have you noticed all “modern” consumer computer tech basically sucks after about 2005? I have.”

      No, I really haven’t. The modern, large-screen, Internet-enabled smartphone, which came about in 2007, literally revolutionized my life. I’d give up pretty much any other possession first, except for my best violin.

      Mine is an iPhone, but I could work about as well with a good Android phone. The point is the combination of internet access, GPS, and media that fits in a pocket.

    • 0 avatar

      Plus, Audi (And I’m sure others) by the year 2000 had steering wheel controls, a digital display area that was more robust than the early trip computers), delay lighting on exit, and if my timing is correct, Xenon lights.

      None of the really new cars interest me. The older ones just have everything that I need and want.

  • avatar

    When people talk about the latest car technology, they are generally talking about infotainment, safety, and convenience technology. Most of it is garbage and I couldn’t care less.

    All I want is cruise control and ABS. If I’m purchasing a 4wd car I want some differential tech, though, I don’t fully trust passive differentials yet. If I’m purchasing a family car, I want power locks, windows, and front seats.

    Our homes are manual locks, manual windows, manual doors, manual seats without any heating or air-conditioning, manual cooking over open-flame, etc. Most automobile technology exists for the amusement of marketing people. It doesn’t add anything to the ownership experience or the functionality of the vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      “Most automobile technology exists for the amusement of marketing people. It doesn’t add anything to the ownership experience or the functionality of the vehicle.”

      This is concise and true, but it does add to the TCO over time due to repairs and malfunctions.

  • avatar

    Car companies see and sell tech as just another accessory which is why it is such a big fail. The poster child for this are the horrible infotainment systems that OEMs sell. They just can’t integrate the systems into something that is both easy to use and useful. They also tend to sell systems that cannot be upgrade except by purchasing a new car, another fail.

    Tesla understands these shortcoming as do Apple and Google. Car makers have a choice: hire and make user friendly systems a priority or cede this is Silicon valley. Android Auto and Apple Carplay are the future. I can see car makers in the same situation as phone makers who put their software on top of the Android OS (or carriers who do the same thing). And just like our phones, everyone will hate the overlay software and the long time it takes for the car company to push thru updates.

  • avatar

    My general answer is that it depends.

    1) Audio tech – definite yes
    2) newest generation of safety tech (lane departure, etc) – not in the slightest
    3) Tech from the past 8-9 years (active headlights, parking sensors) – yes.

    My can has active headlights, heated and cooled seats, nav, bluetooth, ipod connectivity, adjustable suspension, park sensors. I want all that and will pay extra for it. I just don’t care about active cruise, lane warnings, etc.

  • avatar

    In some ways, today’s cars have become far too complicated. All these nannies and infotainment devices have their place, but they need to be far more transparent. By transparent, I mean unnoticeable to the operator or so easy to use that they are essentially automatic functions that don’t distract the driver. All these different noises, buzzes, twitches of the steering wheel and the so-annoying buried in menus functions of the infotainment/climate control/etc. device tend to make driving more difficult and more distracting. It’s like Microsoft’s Windows in a car; forcing you to do almost anything BUT drive the car. And believe me, you really do need to read the manual today, because if you don’t, some default function will catch you ‘hanging out’ and drive you nuts because you think your car is broken.

    And quite honestly, that’s why so many cars today are getting such poor Satisfaction Ratings in the polls. Cars have become too difficult to operate.

    People say that Apple, the computer company, is building a car. Maybe they are. I almost hope they are. But more than anything, I’m hoping they do for cars what they did for desktop computers, smart phones and other devices; make them simple and easy to use by even the most clueless of drivers.

  • avatar

    Forgot to add, OEMs fail to see tech as an overall consumer experience. The iPhone was not the first smart phone. It was the first smart phone where people finally understood the need for the tech. Tech in cars is largely not packaged in ways that make it seem more than just another accessory.

  • avatar

    Nothing like an annoying collision avoidance sensor going off (in concert with your wife directing you) when there is no threat.. I LOVE that!

  • avatar

    “Admittedly, carmakers aren’t tech companies.”

    Yes they are.

    They deal in mechanical, metallurgical, polymer, electrical, electronic and human factors technologies. To use the word “technology” to describe only computers is like using the word “drinking” to describe the consumption of only alcoholic beverages. But back on topic.


    I don’t care about the Latest and Greatest, and I’ll tell you why. They say that inside every cynic is a disappointed idealist, and so here I am.

    See, when I was a kid, my favorite TV shows were Knight Rider, Airwolf and Star Trek and so I grew up with the perception that Technology Was Good. Or at least Technology Was Cool.

    A perception that melted into slag when I encountered Information Technology.

    The IT guys took High Tech and ruined it. Sissified it. Made it uncool. And are using it to enable not my future, but Joe Stalin’s.

    We should go back to the old Air Force standard of ‘higher, faster, farther,’ when the word ‘technology’ conjured up images of manly researchers and heroic scientists designing rocketships and androids and turbine-powered cars, not social outcasts made good developing facial recognition software and click tracking and airport porno scanners.

    Back when the newer version of a vehicle or a piece of equipment not only performed better than its predecessor, but looked cooler, too.

    When High Tech meant armor that the Communists couldn’t shoot through, not IRS firewalls that tax-evading hackers can’t burn through.

    Sure, we’ve got great materials science these days, but instead of our best and brightest making the final push toward working fusion reactors, they’re designing a billion useless apps and personnel databases for HR departments and online advertising that stalks you like a paroled sex offender.

    You can keep your smartphone and your gitney app and your infotainment system, but I want my deep-space battlecruisers and warp engines and laser rifles, dammit!

    Here’s to hoping Stargate SG-1 is a documentary.

    • 0 avatar

      I want an SR-71 of my own on the cheap, too. Uncle Joe’s successors couldn’t touch it – AND they supplied us with the titanium to build the thing so we could spy on them!

      That was my outfit during the Vietnam era, FWIW.

      “In God we trust, all others we monitor.” Habu!

    • 0 avatar

      I cringe whenever I hear the word “tech” used to describe computer software, even harder when it’s software that provides entertainment of little societal value. “I’m in the Tech Industry” translates to I write apps that allow phones to send emoticons to each other.

      ABS, traction and stability control are useful tech. Ultra-high-strength steel is. Lightweight, recyclable materials are. Apps integration is only useful to the extent that it actually enhances driving safety.

  • avatar

    Here’s a piece of tech I’d like to see: a big giant mute button to make all the beeping and blaring shut the hell up so I can drive. Some cars are always making noise for all manner of useless alerts. My old Mercedes never makes a sound for anything. Keys in ignition while the door is open–silence. Trans in drive with parking brake on–silent. Have less than a whisper of gas left in the tank–not a peep. The BMW on the other hand makes a damn “bling!” sound for just about any reason at any time. Door open, key NEAR igntion, seatbelts aren’t on, gas cap is a teeny bit loose, overspeed warning, etc.

  • avatar

    Never use a car for a job a smartphone can do. Never buy a car that talks to the internet. Never buy a car with a touchscreen. There, I’m done.

  • avatar

    The most recent innovation that directly affected driving safety and has become standard in most new cars is Electronic Stability Control. That was the last piece of tech that I found absolutely important. Everything else is just fluff and distracts me from driving.

  • avatar

    Throw out all GPS systems and hurry up with adopting Apple Car and Android Auto. Carmakers struggle with not having too many recalls for mechanical and safety related items let alone creating a good interface for GPS tech.

    Carmakers suck at that type of tech – stuff that requires us to use screens to change the temperature, radio station or GPS directions to the nearest Winchell’s.

    • 0 avatar

      I hope the Android Auto/CarPlay maps/nav apps are more streamlined than the ones on the phones. When driving, I vastly prefer using my Lexus’s nav system to Google Maps or Apple Maps on my phone, because the interface is simpler and quicker. (Note that my car is pre-Lexus “mouse,” thankfully.)

  • avatar

    I would guess that the more one drives, the more important car gadgets are. On an particular task, I can choose bus, subway, car, bike, or foot. We have three cars that range from 2 to 20 years old. The choice of which I drive is completely random. I don’t drive any of them often enough to remember much of anything about the particular features of that car. So I like simple controls, manual seats, key in the ignition, etc. I don’t want to have to remember which car has lane control collision detection, etc. I don’t want to develop a dependence on something that isn’t on another car.

    I would say the most useful thing that falls under modern car tech is bluetooth for my phone. If all the other stuff offered by manufacturers today in terms of electronic conveniences and intelligence disappeared, it would take me years before I even realized it.

  • avatar

    My phone does everything I need. From up to date navigation to letting me hear and respond to text messages over my BT headset. If I want Spotify or Pandora, I play them. So, I don’t need an app, just a high quality BT connection between car and phone.

  • avatar

    It definitely influenced my decision to upgrade from a 2008 vehicle to the 2014 version. The lane departure, blind spot and rear camera are now integrated into my driving senses.

    • 0 avatar

      Hardware is never a substitute for actually paying attention.

      I hope to ged you don’t live/drive anywhere near me, but it really doesn’t matter because the roadways are jammed with your clones.

  • avatar

    Everytime daylight savings comes along I have pull out the manual because I’ve forgotten the menus.

    The symbols on the Sprinters HVAC controls are an enigma.
    I figured out operating by trial & error.

    Give me a quality engine and transmission and a body that doesn’t rust out. I always want better than the OEM’s tires and the better brake package if available.

    That’s where I’d spend instead of 36 month gizmos.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter


    I must becoming a crotchety old fart because I prefer real knobs, real buttons, etc. as opposed to everything being a button input to a micro controller, which then decides, often frustratingly later, whether it will carry out your original intent.

    • 0 avatar

      You do realize that a real knob on an analogue radio still only sent cursory electric signals which decided to carry out your orignal intent. It’s not like it was a physical embodiment of your will.

  • avatar

    some kind of TCAS system might be fun. see how fast you can go before it says “overspeed! overspeed!”

    instead of windshear it could say something like “hydroplane!” when you hit a puddle.

  • avatar

    I don’t need most of these new electronic aids at all. Reversing camera, sure, that would be nice for backing up into a driveway in the snowbanks. And Rear Cross Traffic Alert is nice. The rest of these so-called tech gadgets seem programmed for Grandma on Atavan – overly sensitive/conservative to jerk the somnambulent from their naps.

    Perhaps because I’ve lived in one region for most of my life, navigation is useless because I know the roads anyway. What, some gadget is going to beat my route for getting into the city honed over decades?

    The volume control knob on the dash is easier to operate than the steering wheel push buttons which I never use.

    Now, if someone could invent a windshield wiper more advanced than those available in 1932, that would be an advance. Meanwhile we somehow manage to soldier on at home, as others have mentioned, with manual doors and windows and fridges and range/ovens, and the damn dishwasher still doesn’t have automatic loading – you have to input the dirty dishes yourself. In 2015, surely this is unacceptable!

  • avatar

    I think my 2011 BMW 328i has just about the right level of tech for me. It has basic BT connectivity, you can plug an iPod or thumbdrive into the stereo, and that stereo has two knobs, a two-line display, and a row of buttons. It has auto HVAC that works absolutely perfectly. And I very much like the auto dimming mirrors. And of course about the world’s best ABS, traction control, and stability control system. Unobtrusive, but there when you do something stupid to save your butt. And you can turn it off completely if you are intentionally stupid.

    My 2016 M235i has a LOT more. I went for the $1950 Tech Package because you are stuck with the @$#@$ screen regardless, but without
    Tech you have a tiny low-rez screen in a huge frame, and it looks terrible. And I liked some of the non-NAV things like the extra display in the instrument panel. But none of it is at all necessary. But ultimately, $2K on a $50K car is rounding error so why not? I also probably would have not bothered with the electronic suspension if I had a choice, but I will say it does work, and makes a noticeable difference in ride and handling in the different modes. Not looking forward to the eventual repair bill though. But if I could have gotten the new car with the exact same screenless “infotainment” setup as the old car I would have in a New York minute. I skipped all the nannies, though I would not have minded the backup camera. Maybe I will have to do as Jack is thinking and trade it for a 2018 when the time comes to get the camera. Excuse to do another Euro Delivery.

    • 0 avatar

      How would you rate the calibration of the suspension modes? Is the midpoint too soft, too firm, or just right?

      • 0 avatar

        I’m finding the suspension in Comfort mode to be really well judged. And I have driven everything from 150mph on the Autobahn to the warzone that is the sidestreets of Budapest in the past 1.5 weeks. It is firm, but very comfortable. No RFTs on my car, Michelin Pilot Sport SS. Sport firms things up that much more, but I have not had much opportunity to really play with it, as I am very happy with Comfort. I don’t believe the suspension changes in Sport+, just the stability control system will allow more slip before intervening. Ultimately, the M235i is a slightly more sporting road car, not a track weapon like the actual “M” cars, and I think they have done a great job of making it very comfortable but with very high limits for road use. I am sure Jack would quickly find the limitations on the track.

        I’m probably one of the few who prefer the lighter steering in the new BMWs. My 328i seems to be stiff for the sake of being stiff – I really don’t think there is a darned bit of difference in the actual feel through the wheel in either car. They both track like laser guided bombs at 100+ mph. The M235i is very obviously more settled at 125+ than the 328i, better aero and a much firmer suspension. And of course, the 328i was limited to 130 being a non-sport pkg car.

        I think the best recommendation for the car is that after the first 15-20 minutes on the Autobahn, my Mother relaxed and has completely enjoyed the high speed running!

        • 0 avatar

          Interesting. I agree with you that effort and feedback in steering are two very different things and that people are oddly focused on high effort as the sign of a sporting car.

          Good for you for avoiding the RFTs. As far as I can tell they ruin everything they touch.

          • 0 avatar

            I’m somewhat ambivalent about run flats. The Continentals that came on my wagon are perfectly OK. They don’t ride quite as well as conventional tires, and they are more expensive, but I don’t have any particular gripes about the grip or wear, and well, you can drive on them for 100 miles with no air in them. I likely won’t replace them with runflats when the time comes, but I don’t hate them either. The early runflats from 10+ years ago were pretty wretched, but they have come a long way.

  • avatar

    There are many, many technological car features I love. My car has the following features that wouldn’t be on a Purist’s Car but all of which I find really nice to have (in descending order of importance):

    – Stability control and ABS, dammit!! They are fantastic.
    – Automatic climate control with smart filter and sun compensation
    – Bluetooth for phone calls
    – Seat/wheel/mirror/seatbelt height memory tied to individual fobs
    – Heated and cooled seats
    – Keyless entry/ignition (sensors at all four doors makes it even nicer)
    – Large-screen navigation/live map/rear camera (phones are too small!)
    – Power open/close trunk
    – Parking sensors
    – Adaptive, HID low-beam headlights
    – Auto clock setting
    – Soft-close doors
    – Heated steering wheel

    The thing is, *all* of these are now either accepted basics or, for the ones that actually cost money to include, old hat on luxury cars. The newest batch of features in general seem less compelling to me.

    I would like to have adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring with just a light (no sound) when a car is in the blind spot. Pre-collision braking would be good if the system truly waits until the last possible second to engage. But many of the rest seem actively annoying to me. I don’t want my car to read me texts or connect me to social media or the Web. I don’t want a Bluetooth music connection of inevitably poor quality. I definitely don’t want lane departure warnings or GPS-enabled speed nannying. And I don’t want an app that’s just a brand marketing device.

  • avatar

    im still lithe enough to say to heck with a rear camera – just give me a vehicle that has good sightlines, i.e. lower beltline and thin c or d pillars.

    what do i want in technology? not a whole lot, cruise, tilt/telescope steering wheel, ability to turn on/off traction control, hill control, great radio w/excellent reception, variable suspension, bluetooth, a place to hang my phone (why doesn’t any manufacturer do this?), headlights that sense darkness level (do i need bixenon’s if i drive in the city? i think not), curving headlights might be a good idea but i wonder if they are so great when i’m doing a 360 on ice and trying to steer out of it!).

    if you think that these are really options on cars and not technology well then you get my point. i need less technology and more parts reliability in a fun car. if i get to add two more ‘options’ it would be a manual and a wagon. extra points if it’s not black, silver, grey or white (and no brown does not count – although the vw toffe and macchiato interior on the jsw a few years ago was sharp).

  • avatar
    Joe K

    I own a 2005 Outback fully loaded, and a 1989 Justy. The only time the Justy is not used is when road salt is on the ground. The Justy has a CVT. The only things i wish the Justy had was power windows and mirrors. I added a bluetooth stereo because everything else travels on the phone.

    I am leery of nanny electronics as it may make bad drivers good, but it makes drivers lazy. At what point (we may be there) may we have to replace a perfectly good car because some major electronics module goes south?

  • avatar

    Not gonna lie, I love the added features in my 2015 GT from the BLIS to the much derided MFT to the adaptive cruise control to the multiple traction and stability control settings.

    If I can get another serious infusion of cash over the next few years and I can upgrade to a GT350 the tech package will be really tempting.

  • avatar

    I *love* my 2011 RX8. Definitely that cars swan song. Pretty much the only reason I would consider replacing it is because the lack of current tech bums me out. the 2011 missed bluetooth audio, so I’m stuck fiddling with cables (usually mid-drive) when I want to listen to my phone. And, even if I *did* have BT Audio, the display could never show me anything relevant about what was playing.

    I do a surprising number of road trips, so this actually matters to me almost enough to want a new car.

    If I was getting a new car anyway, I’d love start/stop tech (which I doubt we’ll see here) and some radar cruise control for those times where traffic is light enough on your road trip to cruise, but *just* so, and someone always seems to be doing a 1-2 point difference in speed from you.

    The other safety measures, like lane departure and so on, I’d be happy to take if the tech is mature, I haven’t actually researched it yet. Anyone who *doesn’t* want these technologies presumably is worried about false positives. If that’s not an issue (or won’t be soon) then I definitely want them, because if I’m literally going off the road or about to hit someone regardless of how I ended up in that situation, I’d like all the help I can get to avoid both. My personal pride as a driver is NOT worth my life or anyone elses.

  • avatar

    I would vote for outsourcing or standardization of at least entertainment and navigation. This is finally coming true with Android Auto and CarPlaym, and even though it will still be divided, it will at least give people options.

    My current car, a 2011 BMW Wagon, has BMW’s Apps system. It only works with iOS, and it must be plugged into a device to get any functionality (like Spotify). I like Volvo’s approach to integrate Spotify in the system, but, what about other services? How is it upgraded (ICE upgrades usually get abandoned as soon as the new version/generation comes out).

    With a standard, non-built-in device running everything, at least we have the advantage of having the experts (Apple, Google and the app developers: Spotify, TuneIn, Waze, etc) take care of the software. Any upgrades to the hardware or apps automatically transfer to the car.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go fight with that iPod Touch in my armrest that never manages to integrate with the BMW Apps reliably.

  • avatar

    The car either drives itself or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, give me a manual and whatever was current for 1995. If it does, I want to be able to play Angry birds with my feet on the dash.

    This middle ground of vibrating steering and “Uh oh! Looks like the car is moving. Are you a passenger?” nannies, I don’t need or want.

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