Tag Archive | "car technology"

Too Much Techno


For some while now, I have been suggesting that electrical technology in cars is getting a bit OTT. No so long ago I was moaning to anyone who would listen about the electronic handbrake on the otherwise excellent VW Golf. If an old-fashioned cable handbrake fails I can fix it myself in under an hour. If some trick electronic handbrake goes wrong I am at a loss.

The only solution when these things fail is to take the car back to the dealers. This is fine – although inconvenient – whilst the car is under warranty; but then what? Virtually none of the modern functions on the latest cars are user serviceable. It seems like every day some new technology appears on cars that will leave the layman scratching his head when it goes wrong.

Cars today are extremely reliable, of that there’s no question. As someone who has stood beside a stricken car with water pouring out of the engine on more than one occasion I give thanks for modern mechanicals. However as someone who has easily changed lamp assemblies, fuses, starter solenoids and the like, I am now all at sea when it comes to all the trick kit to be found on so many cars today.

It seems now that I have been proved right. These increasingly complex computer-controlled electronics are going wrong. The number of electrical faults on modern cars have increased by two thirds in five years and the costs to repair them have increased by a third over the same period. What’s worse is that the more expensive the car – and thus the more complex the electronics – the more likely they are to suffer problems. Electrical faults of one type or another are now the most common form of automotive Understandably, car owners are beginning to get fed up with it.

While relays and alternators are the most likely components to break, newer electronic innovations like parking sensors are typically amongst the many faults reported. Whilst many of these advancements do a lot for the performance and safety of cars, they also have a knock-on effect on how often they fail and how much it costs to repair them.

Workshops now need advanced diagnostic tools to safely and effectively fix cars and, in some cases, it appears only franchised dealers can access some of the systems on newer cars, meaning that the customer is hit with a higher labour rate bill. No change there then. Repairs bills will always now run into a starting figure exceeding two hundred pounds and will mostly be considerably more. The latest technology packed cars will one day be used cars. They will age and become, like everything else, prone to problems. At what point now will they cease to be viable?

Motorists are penalised enough by taxes and running costs and even more taxes. It seems a shame that we seem to be living in a culture where just because something can be made, it is automatically assumed that we want it in our lives or on our cars. Safety is one thing, technology for technology’s sake is quite another. And to think it all started with a handbrake.

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There’s Just too Much Stuff!


Once, in far-off days, people were satisfied with what they had when it came to material things. They expected things to last. They purchased a car and kept it pretty much until it had reverted to its original organic state. The thought never occurred to those thrifty folk of yore to even consider buying one of those bright baubles of the automotive future. Even the weak of will who may have been swayed to the dark side soon realised that selling a car just for the sake of getting another one was akin to buying a novelty sweater. It seems like a good idea at the time.

These days however there is simply too much stuff. The temptations are too great. Man cannot live by 3G alone, apparently. A fellow who insists that the pair of flares he bought in 1973 still have plenty of wear left in them would be looked at askance. The driver battling to keep a Ford Sierra on the road in 2014 would be thought of as mad. After all, a new car is announced by car makers almost on a daily basis. The mantra now is ‘change is good for you’; whether you want it or not.

Once there was just The Motor Show at Earl’s Court where serious looking men with pipes and leather patches on the elbows of their jackets would discuss cars in a serious manner. There may have been motor shows elsewhere in the world but they were of no consequence to our stoic British buyers. Now, thanks to the miracles of technology, manufacturers flaunt their wares at shows around the world. A day cannot pass without some new development or other.

FM There’s Just too Much Stuff!In the 21st Century, at least in terms of manufacture, when companies see a bandwagon they feel obliged to jump on it. Thus the car has become a lifestyle accessory to be changed as often as individuals change their smartphones. Take the Citroen DS3 or the Vauxhall Adam. Unlike a Ford Model-T you can have these in any colour combination that takes your fancy. The car as trinket. The car as personal ornament.

To have a choice is fine, to have too much choice is dangerous. What is going to happen when these cars come onto the used car market? What is a delicious beef lasagne to one person is just an old nag to another. Mark these words – if a car is too heavily personalised it will lose value not gain it. In the same way that magnolia paint is supposed to give maximum appeal to the majority of house buyers precisely because it is so neutral, so a silver car will always have the most mass appeal when it comes to resale time.

Manufacturers do these things because they can and consumers of the world are falling for it left, right and centre. For true petrol heads the ideal car has rear-wheel drive, a V8 engine and the desirability of Scarlett Johansson (but with lower running costs obviously). When driving, nobody really needs to be connected to the world. They just need to be connected to the road.

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Hands-Free Car Calls On The Rise


Just over ten years after hand-held mobiles were banned at the wheel, there are now demands to ban hands-free kits as well. This stems from a survey finding that reveals that almost half (45%) of drivers admit to chatting when driving.

While the use of hand-held phones by drivers has thankfully dropped (although there are still fools doing it), hands-free use has risen, likely to be linked to the mistaken belief (according to some) that it is a safe alternative. This is one point of view. Another is that it is no different to chatting with the person next to you.

The thinking is that for the past ten years, the lack of a total ban has left many drivers unaware that using a hands-free mobile at the wheel is just as risky as using a hand-held – at least according to those who want to ban it.

It is argued that it is the distraction of the conversation that causes the danger. Studies have apparently shown the risk of being in a crash that causes injury is increased four times for drivers on both hand-held and hands-free phones because reactions are fifty percent slower than under normal conditions.

More obviously, the survey also found that texting at the wheel is a widespread menace, with three in 10 of all drivers admitting sending or reading messages while driving, and an even higher proportion of young drivers (age 18-24) – more than four in 10 – doing so. Smartphone apps are said to be an additional threat, with one in eight drivers using them at the wheel, up from less than one in 10 in 2006.

It is always a worry when this sort of debate goes on. Many will argue the civil liberties case. Others will say that talking hands-free is no different to holding a conversation with other people in the car. Of course, using a handheld phone is stupid – no one can honestly say they can perform two dexterous functions at once. So the question drivers have to ask themselves is how far can they let what they can or can’t do in a car be called into question.

After all – car makers have been fitting highly sophisticated Bluetooth gadgetry into cars for ages now. It is technology that works. How can this now be banned when connectivity plays such a big part in our motoring lives. It’s over to you.

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Could Ultimate Car Control Be Taken From You?


A few days ago Motor Blogger queried the intentions behind technology whereby your car could be controlled by others. You can refresh your knowledge here. Now there’s a new, or additional, threat – depending on your point of view. It is called Intelligent Speed Adaptation.

It seems that seventy five percent of European drivers are concerned that the use of Intelligent Speed Adaptations (ISAs) will compromise safety, according to new research. Last month, the European Union announced that they were considering rules for new cars to be fitted with ISA technology. This would be capable of detecting speed limits through cameras or satellites and automatically applying the brakes of your car without so much as a by-your-leave. Even existing vehicles could be forced to have the technology fitted, no doubt at the owners expense.

Seventy-eight per cent of motorists don’t want to see the retro fitting of ISA technology onto older vehicles. The research also shows that fifty-seven per cent of drivers feel that ISAs would not have a positive impact on road safety – avoiding crashes, deaths and injuries and so on.

However, there is overwhelming support for the science when car control remains with the driver. Sixty-seven per cent of respondents would prefer ISAs to operate with warning messages with no control of the vehicle. That does make sense.

Respondents do feel that there are some benefits to ISAs. Fifty-two per cent see a reduced likelihood of speeding convictions and less money spent on traffic calming measures such as road humps. Thirty-one per cent of respondents – presumably older, more experienced ones – feel that, if enforced, ISAs should be restricted to younger drivers, newly qualified drivers and drivers with previous road-related convictions.

Certainly this high-tech stuff could help to save lives but it’s clear that drivers remain dubious about the benefits of the technology. More research into the benefits would help to reassure the public that this will improve road safety.

In short – we don’t trust it. We suspect – with good reason – it is yet another way to control drivers. The real answer is of course to ensure that drivers are trained properly in the first place.

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