Tag Archive | "new automotive 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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Infiniti offers Steer By Wire


Nissan’s luxury brand Infiniti are the first to offer the very latest steer-by-wire technology on their forthcoming Q50. No less a driver than Sebastian ‘The Finger’ Vettel – who is the company’s performance director – has been heavily involved in developing this car in which the steering wheel talks to a computer which in turn talks to the wheels. Instantaneously, we hope.

Apparently this new technology fitted to Infiniti’s all-new car has been inspired by the latest jet aircraft technology. No, we don’t know either – cars go along the ground, planes go in the air. That’s all we’ve got.

The Q50 is set to take on the might of the Audi A4 / BMW 3 Series in the premium mid-sized market. Designed, according to Infiniti, to ‘appeal to both the heart and the head’ the car marries the brand’s flowing design themes with technology and traditional craftsmanship. It will come in two or four-wheel drive with a choice of two high performance, low emission engines – a 170PS diesel and a 360PS petrol hybrid. It will apparently be competitively priced in this sector from around £28,000. On sale later this year.

But back to the future. Direct Adaptive Steering is to be standard on certain models and will allow the driver to choose how the wheel feels in their hand. Round would be our first choice but presumably they mean road feel. This used to be something we took for granted but with the introduction of electric steering and the like, some of that ‘feel’ has been lost. Witness the grumbling about the latest 911, for example.

The computer software allows the driver to adjust the steering so that it is smooth and easy – ideal for parking for example – or as sharp and responsive as a F1 car and it is all adjusted via the touch screen. Preferred settings can be memorised. The idea is that by eliminating mechanical losses the steering response will be faster and vibrations will be non-existent. All this is achieved with a level of feedback from the road that is central to every Infiniti’s performance feel, although we have got to think that this will now be simulated feel.

Potential buyers of this car may baulk at something that somehow smacks of a loss of personal control. It seems though that Infiniti have realised this by ensuring that there are fail-safe systems just in case and, if all else does fail, the steering column will remain as additional reassurance. For now!

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