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Adult Supervision Required?

Posted in Car Tech, driving, Safety, trends by J D Stadler | May 30th, 2011 | 7 Responses |

Image: HotRod

Some nannies are young, pretty, glorified babysitters, irresistible apparently to half of Hollywood husbands.  Others have nasal voices that drive most of you insane.  Still others are reliable and practical like the HBIC Mary Poppins.  But this post isn’t about them.  This post is about the bane of a gearhead’s existence: the automotive nannies that car makers insist on shoving into their offerings in ever-increasing numbers year after year.  If, like me, you read the interwebz for your daily auto news fix, you’ve likely noticed the proliferation of articles dedicated to reminding us the Apocalypse is surely nigh, because how else can one explain the need for half of these devices?

I expect this kind of crap from Volvo but now I get the feeling that Benz, BMW and their brethren are just having a laugh at us these days.  As in, “Let’s see how many enthusiasts we can piss off today by announcing another utterly ridiculous device which is useless to anyone with an inkling of driving skill.”  Surely it has to be a big joke to which we weren’t privy, right?

Allow me to share some of my “favorites”:

• BMW is working on a left-turn “assistant” which uses sensors to help someone make a left turn safely.  It’s activated by the turn signal, or in the more overwhelming case of when one isn’t used, the car can predict the turn by scanning for road signage and gauging oncoming traffic.  It’s activated up to 6mph and therefore is defeated when the driver peals through the intersection at 15 in an attempt to beat the oncoming semi.

• Several makes already employ a form of lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring.  I don’t know, maybe I’m old-school but I think properly-aligned mirrors and the hacked-off motorist I’m about to hit, blaring his horn at my idiocy (were I to ever commit such an egregious sin) is warning enough, but that’s just me.  The idea of my car gently applying the brakes to nudge me back in line just makes me shudder at all the implications of it.

• Ford now wants to use its SYNC system to check on the health of their drivers who might have chronic ailments.  Really?  We can’t even get the elderly to admit that their skills may be slipping with age and therefore get off the road, yet you’re expecting people to willingly admit they have a health issue and allow their cars to call the shots in case of an emergency?  Let’s not even get into the likely HIPPA-related litigation this is sure to cause.

• Last but not least is Google’s recent push to have us all in self-driven cars (Prii, no doubt) in the near future.  I can’t even contemplate this without getting the vapors and needing to be revived with smelling salts at the idea of not being allowed to drive myself around anymore.

Image: New York Times

Yes, I think I see the Four Horsemen off in the distance.  Perhaps I’ll hitch a ride with one of them, as long as there’s no black box on board for the purposes of determining our insurance rate when we come to an abrupt stop due to a Google Prius on auto-pilot meandering into our lane.

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7 Responses

  1. Anthony says:

    I agree a-lot of these devices are stupid, and I love how most automakers just add them in with no choice and increase the price. As for the self-driving cars, maybe it isn’t that bad of an idea. Especially here in America so many people can’t drive maybe this will make the roads safer and less road raged if the car is driving itself while there busy occupying there feeble brains on their cell phone.

  2. Al says:

    We already have “cars that drive themselves”, it’s called public transit. It’s what you do when you would rather not drive.

    Leave the actual driving to those who choose to do so.

  3. crispy says:

    Great op-ed piece Ms. Stadler – well written as usual, insightful and spot on. Nice use of the word ‘peals’…don’t see that one too often.

    To wit: I took a long ride in the southern Colorado mountains on Sunday in my spiffy Nissan sports car; awesome experience save one strange and unnerving event. I was goofing around with the hand brake as I was coasting down a shallow grade behind a pickup truck determined to do exactly 50mph in a double lined 55 zone – when to my suprise practically the entire dashboard PLUS the multi-function (nav) screen lit up like a Christmas tree when I pulled the lever while in motion. Bells literally went off as did lights, textual directives ORDERING me to release the brake, and other warnings – all because I dared to slightly pull the handle to slow myself down and not get too close to my buddy in the white pickup.

    Admittedly it’s been awhile since I’ve executed a handbrake turn in anger (on dry pavement), but with every car I’ve done it in – to include my 2003 Evo – I remember the only light coming on was the red one that says the parking brake was on; not terribly intrusive and actually helpful in those times when one actually forgets to release it when leaving a parking spot. In just a few short years, we’ve got to the point where the driver has to be intelligence-assaulted by their car for even the smallest aberrant behavior.

    So, I’m with you on the nannies. Even on ‘supercars’, they’re ready to pounce.

    • J D Stadler says:

      Thanks for the kind words. Your spiffy Nissan wouldn’t happen to be a GTR would it? The nannies seem even more absurd on super cars, to me. My husbands MS3 also lights up when you so much as squeeze the parking brake, although not quite as crazy as what you described

      • crispy says:

        Yes, I’m fortunate enough to own a 2010 GT-R. Wonderful car; probably the best I’ll ever own – but the nannies can be a bit much. Ironically I had a MS3 before this car – loved it! Sold it before I deployed – lest my teenage son think it was his ‘duty’ to keep the ‘battery charged’ for me by street racing it with his friends.

  4. Greg says:

    So the left turn assistant requires the use of a turn signal?

    The joke writes itself from this point forward.

  5. I don’t think any of these are too bad to be honest except for two. The ford health one is kinda of weird, I don’t get that one. The BMW would be good if it could detect a fast car, like one running a red light and thwart it somehow. Now that would be good invention because many people die when they get t-boned by someone running a red light.