automotive technology, DriveWrite Automotive

The Automotive Technology Explosion

Can you imagine how it must have felt to have invented something that changed or even saved people’s lives? We can only imagine the level of commitment it would take with, by our standards archaic tools, to come up with, say, the electric light bulb.

In the last fifty years we have seen an explosion of wonderful technical advances made possible by the computer chip and cutting edge science. Instead of seeing two or three major achievements in our lifetimes we see hundreds. It’s incredible; and then there’s consumer electronics and this is where we see talent washed away on a tide of increasingly pointless technology. Gadgets that we neither want nor need yet we are told will be the Next Big Thing.

It is reported that two thirds of tech geeks at a recent exhibition stated that they fear driverless cars will run out of control or be dangerously hacked. We are beginning to see real concerns about drones and laser pens and technological snooping, so it’s not all sunshine and roses in our brave new world.

Although, like writers of yore, I own and regularly use an actual fountain pen I don’t have a problem with technology; I’m using it now. As I type, messages are coming through on my smartphone, although medical science has yet to offer up a reasonable explanation as to what was wrong with me when I purchased a Windows phone and not, perhaps, an Apple or Android device. Some things are forever destined to be unknowable.

There is however a great deal of unnecessary high-techery (not a real word) about and a lot of it is appearing on the latest cars. We didn’t ask for much of it but we get it anyway ‘because they can’. Much of it is to do with safety and that’s fine but a lot of it is just a distraction as has been much reported so I won’t labour it here.

So let’s talk mirrors. On reflection, they are a good thing and a great safety aid on cars. We have a central mirror on the windscreen to keep an eye on potential impending doom approaching from the rear. We also have them on doors, or, archaically, on the wings of our cars. They do the job. They don’t break down. If you need another you can get it at Halfords for a few quid.
We are all trained to use them. They are as habitual to drivers as believing that nobody sees you picking your nose behind the wheel. They have helped to keep us safe on the road for almost all of the modern era of the motor car, so will someone tell me why manufacturers are so keen to replace them with cameras. It is happening now.

Instead of side-glancing at the mirror (which is unaffected by rain or road dirt) we are to be looking at yet another centrally placed screen displaying a wide-angle view of the road just travelled. Instead of door mirrors we are to get little stalks, like the eyes of a snail, which will be similarly displayed. The question is: why? Sure, blind spots have always been an issue – although a lot of modern door mirrors counter this – but there is another tool at our disposal that we are encouraged to use when learning and that is our neck.

Our neck is not just to allow us to walk forward with heads bowed looking at our handheld devices until we clatter into a lamppost, it also pivots and is therefore handy for glancing over our shoulders.

Arguably you could say,’so what’, but my point is that technology, when it goes wrong, goes wrong big-time. It either works or it doesn’t – and it is always expensive to replace. Cars have become increasingly complicated. Most jobs can no longer be done by a home mechanic. The industry knows this and as a consequence hard-earned money is flailed from us like a convict’s skin.

Certainly, some of us will be fortunate enough to afford to buy newish cars that have warranties, which is great; but the central premise of the warranty is that it will always expire the day before the first fault happens. This is a known fact. This is what will happen with cameras on cars. Unlike the mirror, they will work until the day they don’t, usually at the most inconvenient time. Then it’s off to the dealer with you for another flogging.

Newspapers have reported that sales of the latest high-tech kit are dropping off. I read that Apple have cut back production of the 6S and 6S Plus by thirty percent because of a fall in demand. Many of the gadgets that makers have so much faith in will fall by the wayside. Who is really going to wear those stupid glasses or fiddle with over-ambitious watches? It is my contention that we are near to the point when the public will cry ‘Enough already’! Geoff Maxted