After writing about old pickups yesterday, I was thinking about how complicated vehicles are today. My first truck didn’t even have a dome light, power steering or power brakes. At least it did have disk brakes in front. On a new car, aside from the most basic of economy cars, you would be hard pressed to find a car that didn’t come equipped with power windows, power locks, AC, cruise control and a whole raft of safety features.
Progress is good, and the comfort features that are common to the new vehicles are nice, and make long drives in the vehicle more comfortable. But really, what you need for a vehicle to be comfortable is good sound deadening and a comfortable seat. I will admit that what I want in any vehicle for features include cruise control, air conditioning and a stereo with an input for my iPod.
Cars are incredibly complex now, that it is hard for someone who doesn’t know how they work to believe. The radio, the climate controls and pretty much everything else is tied into the computer bus on the vehicle. That means that you can’t take the radio out and test it on a bench with a power supply like you could the older ones. Also, some vehicles won’t start if the original radio is not in them after the battery goes dead. Not just the same type of radio it came with, but the same radio. I am sure the dealership can associate the new radio with the car, but that could be a rude surprise for the unsuspecting owner.
I am all for improvements and progress, but some times it seems the progress on new cars is progress for progress sake with little to no benefit to the person buying the car. Computer controlled fuel injection is a great plus for drivability, fuel economy and emissions of modern vehicles. And modern safety features are great, but how much more do we need? It is interesting to see the two sides of the fuel economy and safety standards debate. For each increase in the safety of a vehicle, the weight increases, which reduces the fuel economy. And people wonder why the fuel economy of modern cars isn’t higher.
Safety is good, but at what point is the point of diminishing returns were each increase is less and less effective for what is costs to add to the car? Maybe we should be looking and better driver training to make the cars safer, rather than just relying on technology. I think that as technology advances, there will be more safety features that we can implement, but it seems that the most critical part of the safety features of a car, the driver, are being ignored.
Just my thoughts, but I think that we need to look at making people better drivers, not make cars safer. I have seen people reading the paper while driving down the road, and other equally dangerous things. Maybe we need some simpler cars. Take away their cruise control, and suddenly reading the paper while driving just got a lot harder to do.
I know I love cruise control, and other modern additions to cars, but maybe we need to make the driver more involved with piloting the chunk of steel they are in down the road and not less. At least until self driving cars are a real possibility.