Most Annoying New Car Features?

  • September 11, 2023

Does anyone know where to look for safety? 

This is the admonition one often gets in a new or recent-model car equipped with a back-up camera system (now required by law). Put the car in Reverse – which turns on the rearview camera – and the screen says to “look for safety.” Ok. But I cannot see him. Or is it her? Maybe something in between? Maybe the people who write the software for these back-up camera systems could consult a copy editor. 

Some systems have a different – just as illiterate – admonition: Check surroundings for safety. Well, ok (again). Where is she? Or is it they? 

Maybe it might be safer for you to check your surroundings? And look behind you?

Instead of that you get something else in the same new vehicles that have these federally-required back-up camera systems: A parental turning-down of the sound coming out of the audio system as a preface to backing up. Put the transmission in Reverse and cue the sounds of silence; i.e., you are not allowed to listen to whatever you were listening to until you put it back into Drive (or Park). Logically, this is as silly as wearing one of those chin diapers you still see people wearing. It apparently “works” even when the person is still breathing “the virus” through his nose. . .  .

If it’s so unsafe to reverse with the radio on then why and how does it become safe to turn it back on when moving forward? If anything, it is less “safe” because the speeds are higher in Drive than Reverse or Park.

And doesn’t “speed” kill?

Or are we just signaling – as in virtue? Make-pretend we’re being “responsible”? Wouldn’t it be more responsible to expect that anyone entrusted with the operation of a motor vehicle be capable of backing a car up without the “assistance” of “advanced” technology such as a back-up camera system and a peremptorily parenting turning-off-of-the-radio thing?  

And how about the throws-it-into-park thing? 

A number of the newest vehicles have a system that prevents the car from being backed-up or inched forward with the driver’s door (or any door) open or even cracked open. You start to reverse with the door opened just a little so you can see with your eyes what’sback there as you’re backing up – and because the back-up camera system maybe doesn’t give a good view of what’s back there (or curbside) and the car (its “technology”) drive-by-wirelessly puts you in Park (ca-thunk; I pity those sprags).

Then there is ASS. In the literal, acronymically accurate sense. Automatic Stop Start, which is also a “technology” and very “advanced” – unfortunately – in the sense that just about every new vehicle, regardless of make or model, comes with it. ASS shuts off the engine at red lights and pretty much every time the car stops moving for more than a few seconds. This is said to save gas (and reduce “emissions” of gasses) though the gains, if any, are of negligible value to either the vehicle’s owner or the “environment” (carbon dioxide being as much a “pollutant” as margarine is butter). 

It’s not just the engine that is shut off, either.

When ASS shuts off the engine, it also shuts off engine-driven accessories, such as the air conditioning. You’ll feel the breeze change from cool to getting-warmer. And then the engine chuffs back to like. Or when the light goes green and you take your foot off the brake. But not quite in time. There’s a slight lag before the chuff – and until then, the car doesn’t go. It’s just a moment but all those moments add up to annoyance. Some of the newer ASS-equipped vehicles don’t have an ASS Off button, either. Or it’s an electronic button (tap-swipe) buried in the LCD screen that is such a PITAS to find and tap/swipe at the beginning of the drive that you end up leaving ASS on, out of exhaustion.

Peremptory door-locking. That’s another. You close the door and the door locks – as if your momma just closed it for you. Only now it’s an insult – because you’re not in need of a momma to close (and lock) the door for you. Or the other doors – so you have to unlock them (sigh) when what you wanted was for them to be unlocked so that your passengers could just get in. Then you find you can’t get in – because the car locked itself shut after you parked it and went inside and tossed the keys on the kitchen table. But then you realized you left something in the car and went back outside – or to the garage – to get it and find you can’t. Not without going back inside to get the fob that automatically unlocks the doors that just as automatically locked themselves tight. Yes, it is possible to program the system to not do this. But the point is you shouldn’t be obliged to deprogram your vehicle.

Seat belt “reminders” that aren’t.

One of the worst. Because it isn’t about reminding people to “buckle up.” It is about annoying them until they do. Whatever your point-of-view as rergards the merits of “buckling up,” in terms of the law and otherwise, the point is that “reminding” people who do not want to “buckle up” is as pointless as “reminding” people who don’t need a wheelchair to walk to try sitting in that one, over there.

And then pushing it in front of them until they sit down.

So let’s at least be honest and not call these buzzers “reminders” and acknowledge they are there to punish – to pester and annoy – drivers who do not want to wear a seatbelt. To make it more annoying to try to drive unbuckled – because of the buzzer – than to drive buckled and feel the ignominy of having been made to do so. 

This business is soon to get worse, incidentally.

A much more aggressive “reminder” system is pending that will try to prevent the unbuckled from driving. Also pending – beginning with the 2026 models – is a “technology” that will prevent (so it is claimed) “impaired” driving. Of course, this will depend on the definition of “impaired” – which will almost certainly encompass accelerating, braking and making lane changes “too aggressively.” Which will be defined as any acceleration that’s faster than slowly – and the same as regards lane changes (and you’d better use your signal).   

Probably the worst new car features is that you can’t say no to any of the features just described – without saying no to new cars. Because all new cars come standard with some or even all of these features.

. . .

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