Keep Automotive Technology Simple

At the time of writing I’m driving a very good Skoda Rapid Spaceback, of which more in a few days. In terms of gadgets it is not of the very latest, happening now technology but it does have some thoughtful and sensible touches and, to my mind, that’s the important thing.

For example, there’s a ticket holder on the windscreen. Big deal, you might reasonably say, but you have to admit that it is useful every time you utilise a pay and display car park. No more worrying if it will slip of the dashboard or be carried off to some dark part of the car by the draught from the closing door much to the delight of a parking attendant.

Similarly – and I know this to be true because I used it the other day – there’s a handy ice scraper fitted neatly into the petrol cap flap. It works too. The boot of the Rapid has a false floor for secure extra storage and the car has a proper spare wheel rather than a fancy kit that is fiddly and that may not always be suitable. See where I’m going with this?

Not only are cars, like the population, getting bigger and heftier but they are also filling up with pointless technology for the sake of it. For most of my life I am connected; people can get hold of me any time of the day or night. In the car, unless I turn the Bluetooth on, I have sanctuary. It is my retreat; my place of refuge.

Although I can see that having your own mobile hotspot could be useful for business users, in a country as small as ours, just how long would you be out of touch without it? Nothing in the world of work is that important even if they would like you to think so.

The infotainment (how I hate that word, now in common use) and navigation systems can now do many, many things, not all of them well. Be honest, how much of it is really necessary? How often will you really use that special option that looked so good in the showroom? The fact is that once the novelty has worn off the chances are it will languish, forgotten at the bottom of the tech box, like an old, discarded toy abandoned by a child.

As you know, the late, great Colin Chapman’s dictum to make a car go faster was to ‘… first add lightness’. That holds true as much today as it ever did. With less superfluous weight on board a car becomes faster and/or more economical. For example, we are often exhorted to stop keeping junk in the boot. The same thing applies.

Wouldn’t it be good if we could order our favoured choice of car without any of the technology thrust upon us? Drive a classic car and you’ll see what I mean. There is nothing to distract you from the pleasure of motoring: no games, just driving.

Once, drivers used to manage with things called maps to get about. They were made of paper and, if not in book form, had to be unfurled to read them, sometimes to the consternation of other road users. It’s fair to say that the sat-nav has made things easier but not necessarily more accurate. You don’t though need to specify it on the order book. You can buy great devices in Halfords and they’re usually cheaper. Bluetooth? I’ve got a device that syncs to two phones, fits on a visor and cost twenty quid. Works perfectly. Music? Well, I have many CDs but I can plug my very inexpensive MP3 player into the AUX socket so I don’t really need wireless connections. And so on.

Obviously some of the safety kit available today is good, especially given the sloppy standard of driving that we all too frequently witness. ABS, ESP and all the other acronyms have proved their worth but I don’t really need a klaxon to sound anytime I go within five metres of a parked car. I don’t need a heads-up display – I’m not a fighter pilot. What I want is stuff that it useful on a day-to-day basis like the ‘umbrella in the door’ option for the Skoda Superb. How about a torch that charges up when the car is on the move?

All I really want though is a supportive seat, a quality engine, smart handling, an open road and my best girl by my side. (That’s Mrs DriveWrite by the way. I know my place). This is why I like the Skoda so much. Yes, it’s got technology – that’s unavoidable – but it is simple and straightforward. And the ice scraper’s great.
Geoff Maxted