By on November 8, 2017
Image: 1988 Honda Prelude 4WS
TTAC commenter Bruce suggested today’s Question of the Day, and he wants to talk tech features. Specifically, the kind which are all the rage for a short period of time, then fizzled into nothingness.
Today we ask you to tell us about automotive tech flops – past, present, and future.

Here’s a snip of Bruce’s email.
I’ve noticed that car manufacturers have stopped advertising automatic parking features on cars (is the feature even available anymore?) Back in the 90s, four-wheel steering was the rage for a few years. I’m wondering what other tech didn’t last and why (reliability or lack of a selling point, I’m guessing). Also, what current tech in our tech-laden cars do the editors (or readers) think will be dead in coming years.
Image: 2003 Sierra DenaliBruce’s four-wheel steering suggestion is a great example of a tech flop. I can think of four-wheel steering vehicles from the ’80s through the ’00s, and none of them gained much by having the feature. The ’80s brought us the four-wheel steering Honda Prelude, and the ’90s the tech-laden Mitsubishi 3000GT. GM got in the game in the early 2000s, offering the complex Quadrasteer system between 2002 and 2005 (usually on high-end Denalis). Then it was gone.
You turn if you want to. These wheels are not for turning.
Image: 1982 Chrysler Lebaron AdvertisementAnother example from the ’80s — voice alert systems. Available notably on Chrysler products throughout the decade, a Electronic Voice Alert (EVA) shouted warnings from the car’s electronic brain. Leave the door open? Well your door is probably a jar. Turn your headlights on? A voice confirms what your eyes have already observed. This feature/gimmick fizzled out sometime around the dawn of the 1990s, and I don’t think anybody missed it.

 From the nearer past, hands-free parking was advertised in high-line cars starting around 2006 or so. There was a memorable segment on old Top Gear from 2007, where Richard Hammond attempted rather unsuccessfully (per his own error) to park a Lexus LS460 in the studio. Autonomous driving capability has stolen the spotlight from hands-free parking, but perhaps the parking capability will just get folded into the larger autonomous system, rather than fade away entirely. To that point, what are some of the current tech trends you see falling away?

Take to the comments, and list your picks for past, present, and future technology flops in cars.

[Images: Honda, GM, Chrysler, YouTube]

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230 Comments on “QOTD: Automotive Tech Flops – Past, Present, and Future...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    Lower displacement turbo gasoline engines.

    /Wishful thinking.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Curb feelers. Or is that more of a style fail? LOL. BTW, on that Prelude, how I miss cars with clean lines of sight out of relatively large windows!

    • 0 avatar

      We’ve been talking on Slack about the greatness that was that generation Prelude.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Honda basically couldn’t miss in those days.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        I had an ’89 Prelude Si… loaded (sunroof, fog lights) but without the 4WS. Given how well the Si handled the 4WS must have been like having your brain wired directly to the front wheels. Wikipedia confirms its cart-like handling indicating it outperformed every car of that year on the slalom including Porsche, Ferrari and Corvette. Plus it had pop-up headlights which is an automatic win. The body lines were simple and clean, no wasted “flame” surfacing here. Despite having a sharp wedge shape overall all the edges were rounded just enough to give the car a smooth appearance. The full width wrap around rear tail lights were another trait that enhanced the look.

        In addition to awesome handling, the shifter action was typical Honda with light, instant throws and a butter smooth clutch engagement. The engine was down on torque but loved to rev. The interior was smart with body hugging seats, a crazy low (especially by today’s standards) dash and hood. As noted visibility was excellent and complimented the dash layout and center console arrangement. Every button was exactly where it should be, clearly labeled and operated with positive action. Nothing about the car was flimsy or cheap feeling despite is affordable nature. To me this generation Prelude was pretty much the apex of Honda’s engineering. During its model run the NSX was launched and honestly its been downhill ever since especially in terms of styling.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        ‘lude me up.

      • 0 avatar
        psychoboy

        Having owned and/or driven several versions of all of them, you aren’t wrong.

        The all mechanical 4ws in the third gen was really only noticeable in a tight parking lot. If you knew what you were looking for (or drove with/without back to back) the low-input (with) steering added some stability, but it was so imperceptible that most people felt it didn’t do anything. The without car handled so well, that the slight improvement was basically lost in the noise. Pulling off a full lock U-turn or snaking into a parking space is where the high-input (against) steering really made itself obvious….right about the time you unexpectedly crammed a wheel or rocker into a curb or parking block.

        Compared to the electric system of the 4th gen, it was rock solid and dependable. Because the rear wheels were directly attached to the steering wheel, it always did the same thing no matter how fast you were going. It was a delight on track. The 4th gen was speed dependent and computer controlled, so it was always a crap shoot as to what the rear end might choose to do as your track speed and lines improved.

        Sadly, the awesome chassis of the 88-91 prelude was saddled with an absolutely terrible motor: the bastard B. They helped create the later and greater B, F, and H blocks, but they came out of the oven a little too soon. All of them suffered from oiling issues that often lead to stacked bearings and broken rods, and the later 2.1s introduced the Fiber Reinforced Metal cylinder walls that really never allowed the rings to seat. As the old techs at my local dealer said when I got my 200k 91, “those things smoked when they came off the boat….and never stopped”.

        Luckily, Honda is Lego enough that you can cram a newer B series in the engine bay without putting a hole in the hood, and the 4WS system will literally bolt into any chassis….so that’s what’s currently in my garage: my thirteenth prelude and seventh third gen…a 91 2.1Si with a B18 and 4WS swapped in

        also, pedantic note: The prelude in the lead pic is likely not a 4ws, wrong wheels/hubcaps and no pillar badges. Likewise, the GMC pickup shown is likely not a Quadrasteer, as those trucks had ‘half-dually’ flared bedsides.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Wheel

          Loved the Preludes. I had a red/black 86 Si, black/black 91 Si, & silver/black 97 base. Unfortunately, all were automatics because they started out with my parents.

          Love them all. As JMII noted, visibility was incredibly good, especially with the 91. I think I read somewhere the hood on that car was lower than a Ferrari F355 that has its engine in the back! Visibility out the back started to decline with the 97 with a rising beltline towards the rear. The 91 was ridiculously good. Whole car seemed flat all the way front to back. Seats were so close to the floor it was like sitting in a chaise lounge with your legs straight out in front of you.

          Never had a problem with the FRM walls on the 91, but all three did burn oil at higher mileage. Got the 86 up to 199k, the 91 up to 195k, & the 97 up to 175k.

          The 91 was not a 4WS car, it had the ABS option instead. As Psychoboy noted, the car in the pic doesn’t have it since it’s more of a base model.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          That truck is certainly not a Quadrasteer. Those trucks had over cab lighting on them. Quadrasteer, BTW was a great addition to those trucks. They have a great following but parts are getting harder to come by. The option died because GM packaged it in a option cluster that came with a $5K price tag. Only later – after the high cost left a bad taste – did it get decoupled from the mega cost option package.

      • 0 avatar
        jdowmiller

        The example in the picture is one of the most beautiful cars I’ve ever seen.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Yes! Low belt lines and big windows! Functional and good looking.
      I suspect that the ho hood pedestrian safety regs have killed these forever.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The Cadillac V-8-6-4.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Suspension by BOSE!

  • avatar
    Wunsch

    Four-wheel steering is still appearing on small quantities of new models, although generally only very pricey cars (like the new Audi A8, some Porsche 911 model, etc).

    Auto-parking systems are definitely still around, and becoming more common, and even being expanded to do parking lots, not just parallel parking. They’re no longer something new and unique to draw attention to, though – everybody has them. As an aside, I really enjoyed Audi’s commercial taking a jab at Lexus, describing their cars as “for people who can park themselves” – but that was a decade ago, and Audi offers automatic parking now too.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    LCD dash displays, as in fully digital dash with no dials.

    Seems like several things GMC tried in that era were a flop. Remember the Envoy XUV?

    • 0 avatar

      Mmm LCD, like in the Riviera circa 1990. Along with the CRT before that.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Ohh, another one, those terrible economy meters than flip-flopped around as you used the throttle. My buddy’s 1980s Caprice had one. 100% useless.

        “You don’t need to know the engine temp! Or RPMs! Or oil pressure or voltage output! You just need to know that holding the gas pedal to the floor nets you bad gas mileage (although its required to get this wheezing 305 up to freeway speed).”

        • 0 avatar

          http://image.automotive.com/f/2012_subaru_outback/42003351/gauges.jpg

          Subaru Outback had the flip flop economy gauge through 2012. I hate it.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Uhhh! Total waste of space in that instrument cluster.

            Most cars give you the option of instant and/or average MPG, which I feel is far more useful.

            Does your car use oil? Or is that an issue on other Subaru engines?

          • 0 avatar
            HEOJ

            I’d still rather have a temperature gauge, but I have started getting better gas mileage after I started paying some attention to the thing and adjust my throttle usage in my Legacy.

          • 0 avatar

            The thing is, there is instant and average mpg in the center LCD display, which is much more useful than green/yellow +/- on the gauge.

            I don’t think the more recent 2.5 engines have any oil or gasket issues (that I’m aware.)

        • 0 avatar
          1500cc

          “Ohh, another one, those terrible economy meters than flip-flopped around as you used the throttle.”

          Somewhat related … I was surprised to see a “shift” light in my GF’s 2015 M6 Cruze, I didn’t think manufacturers did those anymore

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Probably the XFE model; the shift light nets you an extra mpg or two on the EPA test.

          • 0 avatar
            brandloyalty

            Every single Canadian spec car I’ve had with a mileage readout has had the miles per gallon number in US gallons. Given the plethora of electronics in modern cars, WTF???

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @brandloyalty – I have to check my truck to see if that is the case.

        • 0 avatar
          BigOldChryslers

          FYI, the early “fuel economy” gauges were vacuum gauges plumbed into the intake manifold. If you have a car with a carburetor and distributor with adjustable vacuum advance, they are pretty handy.

          If you never look at the gauges I guess you don’t need them, but they will often tell you there’s a problem before you wind up stuck on the side of the road and/or with a large repair bill.

  • avatar
    arach

    Refrigerated glove boxes. Those were big about 5 years ago and I think they are dead. My porsche has them, but I don’t think Dodge and whatnot that used to advertise them still do.

    Wireless phone chargers. They seem to be popping up in a lot of cars for a rediculous add on price, but they are already outdated.

    Also Lane Departure Warnings.

    Its going to get replaced by Lane Keep Assist pretty quick!

    I used to get SO MAD at my 280zx for telling me my headlights were on. I wanted to be like, “You IDIOT. If you KNOW the headlights are on, instead of b***ing to me about it, turn the things off”. I would actually get road rage FROM my car. Seriously, its a $3 relay if the logic is there….

  • avatar
    cwallace

    Oscillating vents in the dashboard. Mazda had these for a little while when the 929 sedan was a thing, and I think they were the only ones to do it. Cooled the cabin down in a hurry.

  • avatar
    1998S90

    BMW i-drive.

  • avatar
    cicero1

    “You turn if you want to. These wheels are not for turning” great tip of the hat to Prime Minster Thatcher. Strong leadership matters, as exhibited last night (morning there) in Korea.

    keyless cars – the hacking will be so easy and rampant, the old tech will be demanded.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    manual transmissions.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      Semi-automatic transmissions (shifter, but no clutch pedal) transmissions are completely dead, aren’t they?

      Also, those dashboard lights that lit up to tell you when to shift.

  • avatar
    Acd

    Heated windshield washers

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      In related news, I haven’t seen wipers on headlights lately. Maybe that’s still a thing on some cars, I don’t know.

      • 0 avatar

        I thought windshield washers were still heated.

      • 0 avatar
        kefkafloyd

        I don’t even think Volvo does them anymore. The regulations changed to allow for light washers (basically a wiper fluid squirt blast) and they’re much cheaper to install/maintain than miniature wipers.

        • 0 avatar
          zamoti

          They were always broken on my V70. It looked like Stephen Colbert with one eyebrow raised when one would get stuck and the other would stay down. You’d go for a drive and the other one would magically be back to normal. No clue why it did that, but they were pretty worthless anyway. Maybe if you drove places where your headlamps would get caked with nasty salt/ice crud.

          As for heated fluid, I loved the few cars I had with that. They had a heating coil right in the washer bottle. I never ran the reservoir dry, but it seems like that heater coil would eventually fail in a dry bottle.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      Could be referring to three different features here:
      1) Heated windshield (electric elements in glass) where wiper blades rest
      2) Heated washer fluid nozzles (to prevent clogging)
      3) Heater to instantly warm washer fluid itself to aid in clearing ice

      So far as I know, the third feature died after GM’s supplier folded following the fire-related recall of heater-equipped Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS. Other two features persist on some vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        Who still has a heated windshield? I remember Ford’s InstaClear windshields that were optional on the mid ’80s to early ’90s Taurus, Sable, Continental, and I think Crown Vic and other big sedans. Very expensive to replace if cracked, limited the reach of your radar detector if you used one, and sometimes gave it a gold-ish tint. But it sure defrosted your windshield quickly.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          Transit Connect offers one. you can see faint “squiggles” in the glass for the heating elements.

        • 0 avatar
          MLS

          Chrysler’s minivans used to include heating elements (like those used for rear window defrosting) at the base of the windshield, where the wiper blades rested. Because they were set so low in the glass, there was no effort to make them “invisible” as on Ford’s full-windshield solution. Chrysler “decontented” the front defrosting grid at some point, and I’m not sure if the current Pacifica offers it. (Subaru offered a similar system at some point, but I’m also unsure if any of its current models do.)

          Currently, Jaguar offers heated windshields (with elements integrated throughout) on several of its vehicles.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    I had an 88 Prelude SI 4ws. It was a blast to drive but the 4ws didn’t really make much of a difference compared to the regular SI. That’s why it flopped. You really didn’t notice it at all.

  • avatar
    V16

    Infiniti and their ‘active suspension’ option for the first gen Q45.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    Chrysler’s “Highway Hi-Fi” in the 1950s. A phonograph for your car. Worked as well as one would expect.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highway_Hi-Fi

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      When I was in 3rd grade, I dreamed of having a record player in my vehicle. This was in the early 1990s, but I still enjoyed my parents record collection from the early 60s (and, living near Seattle, always listened to 97.3 KBSG, may it rest in peace).

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I bought a Discman back in the late ’80s and tried using it in the car. It skipped at the mere thought of a bump 100 feet down the road.

      The only way to get it to stop skipping was to hang it off the rear view mirror. Then it would bang against the dash every time you came to a stop, which did Nothing Good for the Discman.

      • 0 avatar

        I think later Discmans (90s ones) had a stability feature on them where you could lock the cover (?).

        I remember using my Discman in the car – tuck it into the passenger seat and run it through the cassette adapter.

        Boom. CD player in your 5000.

        • 0 avatar
          la834

          I bought the first Discman that had a 3-second buffer to help it find its way back before you heard a skip; it worked for all but the bumpiest roads. Later models this increased to 10 seconds or more.

        • 0 avatar
          SaulTigh

          My first Discman took 6! AA batteries and skipped if you breathed on it funny. Friend of mine then got the very expensive ($300 – $400 bucks or so in early 90’s money) Car Discman which was basically just twice as big as mine and was usable in the car – barely. Still skipped, but not nearly as often. Then by the late 90’s Electronic Skip Protection happened and by reading several seconds ahead and buffering, it virtually eliminated skipping. Of course, by that time most new cars had players from the factory.

          Now? I’ve used the CD player in my BMW a handful of times. I’ve turned into a hardcore radio guy over the years and don’t even own an MP3 player. Hard for me to remember when dragging all your personally selected music around was a thing (either in the giant 100-CD wallets or IPODS).

          • 0 avatar
            la834

            I was wondering why you all but repeated what I just wrote, then noticed it was posted at almost exactly the same time. Yep, mine was the first with ESP, a “CAR Discman”. Other “car” features included backlit controls in your choice of amber or green, several EQ options, and for some reason, a wireless remote (also backlit, though only in amber).

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Glad something worked in that 5000!

        • 0 avatar
          dukeisduke

          I had a Car Discman in my ’95 F-150. I kept it in the huge fold down center seat/armrest. I notched the back corner of the lid for the cables to go out (what a PITA it was to get the lid off, and back on, without breaking anything!), and ran the power and audio cables though the seat hinge, under the carpet and the sill plates (power along the driver’s side and audio on the passenger side) using extension cables. I tied the power into a fuse tap with an inline fuse, and taped the audio cable up behind the dash and plugged the cassette adapter into it, stashing the adapter in the ashtray.

          When I wanted to listen to a CD, I’d open the ashtray, grab the cassette adapter, pop it into the cassette slot, open the lid on the armrest and hit Play. The Car Discman also had a wireless remote, so I could operate it without having to look at it.

          The Car Discman had a two-second shock buffer, so there was a two-second wait for the dropout after you hit a bump.

        • 0 avatar
          MLS

          The stability feature didn’t have anything to do with the cover lock. Rather, the “skip protection” would just read ahead and build a buffer so that music could play uninterrupted during shocks to the player. Early systems had a limited amount of buffer time and therefore could only tolerate intermittent, minor impacts. But the last disc players had sufficient buffer time to enable use while jogging. Then, of course, solid state MP3 players took over.

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            solid state mp3 players came after those with traditional hard drives with moving parts.

            I remember my first mp3 player was from Creative and was shaped like a discman.

          • 0 avatar

            @MLS

            Yeah, 13 year old me didn’t know about CD player functions, really. ;)

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I think Caddies had a feature a few years back that enabled you to copy all your MP3s from a SD card onto a hard drive in the dash.

            With Bluetooth, I’ll call that one a fail too.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      That’s an insane idea. Thanks for the interesting read.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The GMC Sierra in that picture isn’t a Quadrasteer truck – it doesn’t have the fender flares or clearance lights on the bed side panels and roof (the lights are needed because the truck is over 80 inches wide).

    Here’s a Quadrasteer Sierra Denali:

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b0/Quadrasteer61.jpg/1200px-Quadrasteer61.jpg

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Your door is a jar. A Jar-jar. Meesa forgot to shut door.

  • avatar
    HEOJ

    My grandma had a mid eighties New Yorker, to a five yr old Knight Rider fan that talking car was the coolest thing ever!

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Built in DVD players? And if you know where I can sell it, I have a NOS still in the box remote control for a Dodge Caravan built in DVD player.

    Ashtrays.
    Cigarette lighters.
    Bench seats.
    Graphic equalizers.
    Power antenna.
    Pop-up headlights.

    Not perhaps technology but options/innovations that are extinct in the auto world.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I want all of those sans pop up headlights, and I don’t even smoke.

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      Years ago I ordered a new 1980 Olds Omega (don’t laugh). GM had a crappy idea of imbedding the radio antenna in the windshield back then and I knew the reception was poor. I ordered the power antenna. Well, the power antenna had no control switch. If the radio was on, the antenna went up. When you turned the car off it went down. That added up to many cycles a day. After about a year, one day the antenna went up but the motor would not turn off, even with the ignition turned off. The continuous running of the little motor would soon run the battery down, plus the constant humming was annoying. I had to pull the inner fender back and find the power source. After cutting the wires, the motor stopped. The antenna stayed up so it served its purpose from then on.

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        My parent’s 1994 Accord had a power antenna that did the same thing. It eventually died but I remember the Honda dealer replacing it for free out of warranty in 1996. Seems like it was a common problem.

    • 0 avatar
      HEOJ

      Another win(?) for the Legacy and Outback 2010 – 2013 version with Navigation could play DVD’s, but only when parked. I put in a DVD just to confirm it worked and never used the feature again.

      I’ll also see your bench seat and raise you a convertible bench seat on the last Ford Taurus to have a bench seat, the middle front seat cushion could fold out to provide a center console and the seat back folded down for an armrest. Actually did make use of that quite a bit when I had one.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Amazing that fords entry keypads are still around. Pretty much an advertisement that ford’s technology is woefully out of date – but I guess this frees up resources to perfect the next generation man-step.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “Pretty much an advertisement that ford’s technology is woefully out of date”

      you would be very surprised how many people like and use that feature.

      • 0 avatar
        jeanbaptiste

        I love this feature. Leave the keys and whatever in the truck. Lock it up (Go running, swim, outdoor anything) and then come back, 5 numbers later i’m in my truck. I don’t have to worry about losing my keys or worse, getting them wet and shorting them out.

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          I’ve never figured out what drivers are supposed to do with their key fob when they go to a public beach. I put mine in a zip-lock plastic bag and leave it with other stuff on the sand. There ought to be a good substitute for a thin metal door key which easily fits in swim trunks and survives immersion in salt water for a short time.

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            I don’t know how it is with other make/models, but my Mustang has a small physical key embedded in the fob, and a physical lock on the underside of the door handle that you would never know is there without looking for it (or reading the manual).

            It’s designed as a contingency measure for the day your fob battery dies, a replacement battery isn’t immediately available, and you need to physically unlock and start the car.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        I love the door code feature on my F150

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      My father-in-law has owned several Lincolns with the entry keypads. he loves the feature. At age 90 that is about as high-tech as he needs.

    • 0 avatar
      kefkafloyd

      People love that keypad, because it means you can get into the car without a key. While modern wireless key entry systems have kind of obviated the need for the keypad, people still want it. Ford had a ton of angry customers when they stopped offering it as an option and actually had to bring it back!

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        Modern electronic keys, wireless or otherwise, have only made Ford’s buttons more relevant. How else am I supposed to go to the beach and swim or surf without shorting out the electronics in the (expensive) key? And no, I’m not leaving my car key in a bag on the beach when I go in the water. Would be so easy for anyone to steal my car. Instead, I can hide the key inside the car somewhere not obvious, and use the pushbuttons to unlock it.

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      That keypad is the single greatest thing FoMoCo ever invented.

      • 0 avatar
        porker

        Sorry, this was not invented by FoMoCo. It was developed and offered first on the Datsun (Nissan) line called the 810 Maxima. Ford wanted the feature, but Nissan had a patent. So, Ford did what it historically has done, it purchased enough of the Nissan stock in order to get the rights to the patent, then offered it on its vehicles. Then, of course, Ford sold its stock in Nissan, mission accomplished. Same trick it used in the ’30’s or ’40’s to get the 3-point hitch from Ferguson tractors.

        • 0 avatar
          la834

          The ’85 FWD Buick Electra/Park Avenue offered pushbutton entry too, atop the chrome window frames. I think it only lasted a few years.

          I recall Ford first using the pushbuttons on the 1980 Lincolns and T-Bird/Cougar, with Nissan not offering them till about 1984 on the 200SX and Maxima. Nissan IIRC put keypads on the passenger side too.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      More useful than you might think. I once locked the keys in the cab of a truck equipped with the keypad. Knowing the code, getting in was no problem.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      ““Pretty much an advertisement that ford’s technology is woefully out of date”

      Because none of their products offer key fobs, push button start, etc? The keypad is there not to stand in for those features, but to supplement them.

      But, I guess if you need a reason to hate on Ford, there you go. About as ignorant as EBFlex b¡tching about stupid Ford drivers not turning on their headlights, when every new Ford (from the Fiesta S sedan on up) has the autolamp feature.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      I love the keyoad too. You can always get into the car even if you don’t have the keyfob on you. You can append digits to open one door, all doors or the hatch. You can give one of the multiple codes to kids so they can get in the car but not start it. You can give a code to friends sharing the car. If returning to the car with the key buried in a pack or luggage you can open the doors first and dig the key out later.

    • 0 avatar
      Griffin Mill

      My last two vehicles (Ford Flex, Ford Edge) have had the Ford Keypad. When I got the Flex in 2009 I agreed it seemed so out of date since the cars also had remote key fobs… Over the years, I have come around and now love the feature. I like that I can lock my keys in the car when I go to the beach. I like that I can get into the car when it is parked in the driveway and my keys are upstairs. I wouldn’t want a car without it now.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I’d love to have that feature on my cars. The flush-mounted unit in door pillar of the Fusion is a clean, modern evolution.

      Is it still under patent? It’s been around so long I’m surprised another car maker hasn’t added it yet.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      I’ve got a Sable with the keypad, and I’ve used it often to avoid carrying keys into venues where I’m going through a metal detector. One less thing to pull out of my pockets.

      The Sable has another feature that I would pay extra to have added to any car I ever own. It has 2 sun visors, the big one hinged in the corner and a smaller one behind it that slides side to side on a fixed rod. When the sun is in a position that would force me to keep moving a single visor from front to side position, I can just swivel the big one to the side and position the little one in front, and I don’t have move either as my route swings me relative to the sun.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Keypad FTW. (That means “For The Win”.)

  • avatar
    vvk

    Not on topic, but that Prelude is such a beautiful design. Simple, timeless and beautiful.

  • avatar
    jeanbaptiste

    Econ AC Buttons. For when you want mediocre Air Conditioning.

    http://www.basirk.com/mr2/se/images/ac_climate.jpg

  • avatar
    MartyToo

    About to die: CD Players.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I was scrolling through the comments and was surprised this was so far down in the comments. The CD player is definitely going away. Just as the cassette player clung on in a couple of models into this decade, the CD player will linger before it’s inevitable demise.

      • 0 avatar
        MLS

        I’d be interested to see what percentage of 2018 models continue to offer an in-dash CD player. It took me at least a couple of weeks to notice that my otherwise feature-laden 2016 vehicle lacked a disc drive.

        IHS Automotive forecasts that by 2021, 46% of new cars sold in the U.S. won’t have CD players:
        https://www.forbes.com/sites/hughmcintyre/2017/03/02/the-time-has-come-to-say-goodbye-to-the-cd-player-in-new-american-cars/

        And yet, 7 in 10 shoppers say they still want them:
        https://www.cars.com/articles/car-cd-players-not-played-out-for-shoppers-1420695800638/

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      I hope not. My 2007 Mazda 6 has a 6-CD player, which is my Plan B when the Bluetooth gizmo I use to link to my phone has its usual connectivity issues. CDs also sound better than MP3s.

      • 0 avatar
        MartyToo

        MP3s should be home made on the PC at the highest bit rate if you want great sound. Throw them on a memory stick and put that into the USB slot.

        In the future we’ll have FLAC lossless players in cars and then your ears will be happy.

        One of the reasons I’m expecting the in-dash CD player to die soon is that I almost never use mine. My friend who has thousands of CDs and a built-in media hard drive on his BMW X5 no longer buys CDs. I was shocked but he just doesn’t care about the fidelity difference. He likes the ease of use.

        • 0 avatar
          TMA1

          What do you mean by a FLAC player? Is that somehow different a USB port that reads FLAC files? That’s how I play FLAC files in my car (a 2016 Ford).

          • 0 avatar
            MartyToo

            If you can play FLAC files on your Ford then the future is now. Come to think of it we haven’t tried FLAC in our latest Honda.

            This bolsters my argument that CD players will die (sooner rather than later).

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    Hello? Stop……….oh ya, guess he wants to go, hesitate Start feature. I hate it!

  • avatar
    la834

    It seems like run-flat tires are fading away, even as more cars don’t include a spare tire. Also, there was a earlier attempt (1960s-ish) to provide a similar capability with dual-layer tires, basically a tire inside a tire so if the outside tire got a flat, the inside one would still be inflated.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Yeah, I remember seeing ads for those (early to mid ’60s). It was a good idea, in theory at least.

      • 0 avatar
        CobraJet

        My 69 Mustang has a lighted ignition key hole. It is illuminated when the parking lights are turned on. Come to think of it, my 1940 Dodge had a lighted keyhole. Also lighted with the parking lights. A very old idea indeed.

  • avatar
    la834

    Illuminated keyholes – an outside one that was activated by pushing or pulling the (locked) door handle, and an inside one that usually stayed on for a half minute after closing the driver’s door. With remote and smart keys, not really needed anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Toyota is pretty inconsistent in their use of those on the steering column. My wife’s ’08 Sienna has an illuminated ring, but my ’13 Tacoma doesn’t. I wish it did.

      Some Mopar products (full size cars) had the ones on the column in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      My Tempo LX had them (lighted exterior key holes). I wish my Taurus did, although the interior lights will illuminate when you pull up on a front door handle.

      Installing RKE on my vintage Taurus is pretty easy, its on the list.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      My ’94 RAM had the illuminated ignition keyhole on the column. Unfortunately my ’07 RAM does not, though on that truck the keyhole is hidden behind the steering wheel so you can’t see it easily anyhow. Now that I’ve owned the ’07 for a couple years, I’ve gotten the hang of inserting the key by feel.

      1965-66 Chryslers have the ignition keyhole on the dashboard, and it’s illuminated. It’s not tied to opening the driver’s door though. The light comes on when the headlight switch is pulled the the parking lamps position.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        Yes, my ’66 Dodge Polara wagon my family had when I was a kid had that feature – a bright white incandescent light too that really lit up the key switch area. We rarely used it though – it was just more of a bother to pull the headlamp knob out halfway, insert the key and start the car, then pull the headlamp knob out fully to light the headlamps. The later versions tied to closing the driver’s door were much more convenient, though the keyholes themselves were harder to see or find by them being on the steering column. An above post mentions the old Chrysler system dates back to at least 1940.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Toyota still has the illuminated ring for keyed ignitions on some models (4Runner and Camry at least), but you have to peek around the steering wheel to see it on the column. The evergreen 1996 Camry had the optimal implementation, with the ignition on the dash in plain sight. The key never missed.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Tesla

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    4WS was very popular on sporty cars around 1990 or so. Nissan called theirs HICAS and offered it on all sorts of rides. The effects were pretty subtle and not particularly suited for track use, so most people remove or disable it these days.

  • avatar
    NoID

    The self-parking feature seems to be proliferating rather than dying out, but to the questioner’s point it isn’t really lauded as a selling feature anymore.

    The automatic shoulder belt was my favorite.

  • avatar

    My kids spent some of their years growing up in a Chrysler E class with voice alerts. My younger daughter, who is 28, told me that she would love to have a retroish gizmo that says, “A Door is ajar”.

    Maybe that’s because everytime she heard the car go “A door is ajar”, she heard her father say, “No, a door is a door, a jar is a jar.”

  • avatar
    brettc

    Multi-disc changers, located in the trunk.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    Silverado Hybrid

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Anti-static strips. Still see them now and then. Turned out to be a scam rather than so important.

  • avatar
    srh

    The obvious tech flop based on its exclusion from almost all new cars: The spare tire.

    I mean don’t get me wrong, the industry tried to innovate here to save this bad idea. Since full-size spares were obviously just no good, they came up with the mini donut spare. But clearly even that was a failure, so they got rid of it too. And good riddance. Thanks to the exclusion of a spare tire I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a 5-mile walk home with sticky tire filler glue all over my hands.

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    IIRC, you could get a Prelude with ABS *or* 4WS, but not both.

    I would have picked ABS over 4WS 5 of 5 times, and I imagine that was nearly the ratio that got sold.

    Past: Hiway hi-fi. Record player in a car was fail from the first pothole.

    Present: Built-in Navigation. Locked in technology ages rapidly, often looks and works terribly, and cost and availability of updates slowly renders them unusable. Smartphone integration is the smarter bet even if it also has obsolescence problems.

    Now and (near)Future: Car as wi-fi hot spot. Technology *will* render it obsolete, perhaps before the lease or loan is up. not to mention nearly everyone already carries a device that will support that function inside and away from the car.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I agree regarding cars with a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot. The built-in hardware to make it happen becomes outdated rapidly and nobody likes paying an extra cellular bill every month. An in car repeater to extend the range of the phone you already have combined with a well integrated dash/steering wheel/voice command user interface would make more sense, but car manufacturers dream of selling services with a monthly bill.

      • 0 avatar
        john66ny

        Actually, it’s not so much that the automakers want to be in the WiFi hot spot business, it’s more that they want to be in the highly profitable big data business.

        They know your demographic, and can learn where you travel, where you spend time, etc. They can aggregate that data to learn which roads are traveled frequently by young folks who are upside down on their loans, and sell that to the payday loan companies. Or older affluent males and sell that info to the billboard companies (think Viagra).

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Built in NAV especially early units is extra terrible because there is NO way of updating them. Since roads change constantly the idea of a map on CD-ROM (remember those?) is a dead end (pun intended).

      Actually I think in car WiFi will be on every vehicle in the future. As things moves towards the cloud / iOT (internet of things) cars, especially self driving ones, will require a constant on internet connection. At least this way the NAV problem above can be addressed with daily map and other software updates.

      • 0 avatar
        srh

        I’d rather see a vendor-neutral and standard version of Apple Carplay/Android Auto that renders the touch-screen a dumb display.

        These could work with a phone or even a small “brain” that provides the same intelligence, but can easily be swapped out even more easily (and with less wiring harness pain) than the old-style 1U car stereos.

  • avatar
    Griffin Mill

    Honda LaneWatch™

    My wife’s 2014 Honda has that little camera built into the passenger side mirror. I really liked that feature when changing lanes in heavy traffic. Apparently it has been supplanted for the new 2018 Accord by the more traditional amber colored lights that come on when a car is in your blind spot. I liked the camera better even if it meant your side mirror had this ugly tumor hanging off of it.

  • avatar
    turf3

    Rear-mounted air cooled engine in the Corvair.

    They were great little cars, but eventually flopped:

    – Could not install ever-larger V8 engines in the 1960s horsepower race
    – No good way to have air conditioning
    – Emission controls darn near impossible due to high operating temps and large temperature swings compared to water-cooled engine.
    – Front trunk has to accommodate wheel swings and front-end styling, so trunk space was always less (and weirdly shaped) compared to a front engine car.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      Yeah, air-cooled engines are a dead technology. There are still a few rear-engine cars out there (Porsche 911).

      The other problem that killed the Corvair was the unprofitability of building a car with so many Corvair-only parts, and having to have dealers stock those parts and mechanics know how to work on them. Why bother with a rear-mounted, aluminum, air-cooled, turbocharged engine when Ford Mustangs with stock Ford V8s up front on Falcon platforms were selling 3x faster?

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Mazda 929 had an optional solar panel in the sunroof, attached to a thermostat inside the car. When the interior air temperature got ‘too hot’ it would automatically turn on the A/C to cool it down. Using the energy from the solar panel it would not drain the battery.

    A wonderful idea that lasted only a few years and that very few ordered.

    I also miss the illuminated ignition.

  • avatar
    George B

    I think paddle shifters to manually sort of control hydraulic torque converter automatic transmissions and CVTs will fade away. Extra cost that doesn’t accomplish much unless the transmission is a dual clutch automated manual. Safety/lawsuit concerns will cause non-standard knobs and buttons for automatic transmission mode selection to revert back to levers where lever position gives visual and tactile feedback to drive, neutral, reverse, and park positions. Knobs and buttons will start to come back for a few of the most common dash operations for similar safety/lawsuit reasons.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Eddie Murphy had a good routine on talking cars:

    (NSFW)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMxdFwCU1OE

  • avatar
    Joe K

    Has anyone in real life actually used the self parking feature? Also Does the car pull itself out after the idiots around you box you in, or do all the proximity alarms just start screaming? I dont think a self parking car would actually work in most cities, I may be wrong, but it takes some parctice, talent, and sometimes guts to park in a space that “Looks just big enough”.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      I suppose it would work in neighborhoods where the parallel parking spots are individually metered and therefore well-spaced and marked. But in Boston’s North End or similar areas where rubber bumper mats are more or less required? No chance.

      Would be cool to try it out once, I guess.

  • avatar
    willicent

    I had two Subaru XT6s back in the late 80s. Both had these seat belts that were always connected to a track that moved forward as the door opened. They were always frustrating. I do not miss these.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Yep. Semi-auto seatbelts were my first thought when I saw this QOTD. Talk about a dead technology never to return.

      The worst ever was when you opened the door and leaned out to look at something (to check you position in a parking spot for instance), and the seat belt would essentially try to strangle you as it rolled towards the front of the a-pillar.

      I had one on my B3 Passat. Total ‘mare. The only positive aspect was that you’d never get a seatbelt ticket.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I hope touch-screens and console mouse controller things go away. I want knobs and buttons back.

  • avatar
    TR4

    The vacuum assisted gearshift in 1940s Chevrolets.

  • avatar
    Joss

    An accessory called “The Club,” used as a theft deterrent. Nowdays just have a stick…

    Today some of the infotainment capabilities many don’t use.

    Future a sedan?

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    I expect “park assist”/”more or less self-parking” to stick around.

    The failures listed above it are “things nobody actually asked for or cared that much about”.

    So many people hate parallel parking so much (or are at best mediocre at it), that it’s a *compelling* feature if the price is plausible, which it increasingly will be or is…

  • avatar
    azmtns

    Would crotch level AC ducts, as found in early Chyrsler minivans, be considered a flop or not?

  • avatar
    slavuta

    There were few cars with sliding rear doors that no longer exist

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I recall when I worked for Nissan stories of some engineers modifying the HICAS system on a 240SX to turn the front and rear wheels in the opposite direction at high speeds and run super tight slaloms at high speed. The system was a neat idea, it’s just that the vast majority of customers will never realize its benefits.

  • avatar
    flyf2d

    I must be getting old.
    How about the Austin Allegro square steering wheel as a great feature?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin_Allegro
    It won a prize in the UK as a safety feature as it prevented people sliding the wheel through their hands when exiting a corner instead of the approved shuffle the wheel through the hands. Not a feature that has survived.
    Can you still get anything with a Vinyl roof ?

  • avatar
    manu06

    How about TPMS ? The damn tire pressure light comes on any time the temperature
    drops into the 50’s and on most vehicles doesn’t tell which tire is actually
    low .

  • avatar
    el scotto

    upshift lights. My Saturn SL1 had them. Which usually made me think “yeah sure”, I’d like get up to highway speeds before the next meal.

  • avatar
    matt3319

    Nissan’s Super HICAS and of course Chrysler’s rich Corinthian leather!!!

    But my Winner is the ever long lasting Toyota digital clock. The same one in my 2017 Corolla looks just like the one in a 1985 Corolla!

  • avatar
    la834

    Nobody’s mentioned rotary engines yet! They seemed to be the future in 1972.

    Also, very sadly, Citroen’s awesomely smooth-riding hydraulic suspension.

  • avatar
    The Comedian

    Mitsubishi also put 4-wheel steering in the Galant VR-4.

  • avatar
    RobbieAZ

    The automatic seat belts in my ’91 Laser were incredibly annoying. I’m glad those didn’t catch on.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Weimer

      Automatic seatbelts were a temporary stopgap measure to satisfy the US Federal government requirement for passive restraints, and put on cars that were near the end of their refresh cycle. New models after the 1989 MY had airbags designed into them.

      Yes, they are annoying. No, they weren’t a fashionable “thing” anyone really thought was desirable. They were just the most economical way to meet the regulation without a complete redesign for airbags.

      Now, the 1970’s VW Rabbit seatbelt attached to the door (so you’d have to slide into them) – that was another thing entirely.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        IIRC the Rabbit “passive restraint” setup had only the shoulder belt and no lap belt, instead adding extra crash padding beneath the dashboard. The Chevette briefly offered a similar setup optionally circa 1980. Later in the ’80s GM skirted the passive restraint law by mounting the seatbelts at the rear of the front door rather than on the pillar, so theoretically you could slide in and out of the car without disengaging the belt. In real use it was difficult to do this, so it was almost always unbuckled and used like a regular seat belt. The shoulder straps reduced sideways visibility on 4 door sedans and wagons, but worked quite nicely on coupes with their longer doors where they also made rear seat ingress/egress easier since the front seat harness wasn’t in your way when climbing in or out of the rear seat.

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