One of the reasons for liking old cars is they don’t try to parent you. The new stuff won’t quit trying to.
The 2018 VW Golf GTI I am reviewing this week, for instance. When you put the transmission in Reverse, the radio’s volume’s is peremptorily turned down – apparently because someone decided it wasn’t saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafe to back up while listening to the radio.
One can almost see the liver-spotted hand of your mother-in-law adjusting the volume control knob. Many new cars have this “feature” – not just new VWs.
It’s incredibly obnoxious. More so because it’s not your mother-in-law and you can’t slap her liver-spotted hand down or – better – hit the unlock button and tell the old bag to get out now if she can’t mind her own business.
Speaking of door locks...
They are just as peremptory. Some can be programmed not to be – but the default is uber peremptory. As soon as you get in and close the door, it locks. All locks. Some cars are incredibly aggressive about allowing access to the car, denying the owner access to the trunk or rear cargo area unless he very deliberately unlocks the locks, which the car slammed shut without him having asked it to.
Again, for saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety.
The latest BMW vehicles will countermand your decision to inch the car backward with the door open – by taking the transmission out of gear and pestering you with a cloying chime that sounds kind of like this: Brrrrring! Brrrrring! Brrrrring!
Sometimes, backing up with the door open makes sound sense. You get a better idea of where the curb is and also the distance remaining between the back of your car and the car your backing up toward using your own two eyes – which have greater depth perception and peripheral vision than any fish-eye camera.
But BMW wants you to use the camera instead. No, check that. BMW insists you use the camera. The car will not let you back up with the door cracked. The nanny cannot be told off.
There is no Off button.
And that’s the rub.
It’s one thing – an acceptable thing – for a car company to include a feature it thinks may be helpful. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s another thing when the feature isn’t wanted – and you can’t countermand the “help.”
This is, however, the new Nudge way of doing things. The mother-in-law you can’t make shut up or kick to the curb.
Which didn’t used to be the American cultural norm. You can watch sitcoms from the ‘60s to confirm this. Some readers may remember the annoying next-door neighbor in the series, Bewitched. Gladys Kravitz. She was an object of ridicule then. Today, she’s in your dashboard – and touted as the most marvelous thing since hot and cold indoor plumbing. Speaking of which. One wonders how long it will be before you’re only allowed to turn the Hot up so high – and no higher? Probably with a cloying jingle warning you it’s not saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafe to take a shower so hot.
We are not far away from that, actually.
All washing machines now lock themselves up as soon as you start the cycle. It is not possible to add something to the wash, as was routine practice for decades. Apparently, a child went for a swim and its parent wasn’t parenting – so now we are all parented.
This is why cars have back-up cameras now, incidentally. A handful of negligent parents didn’t parent their kids – backed up over their kids, whom they’d lost track of – and now we are all parented.
Most new Toyotas will not allow you to disengage the traction control unless you first come to a complete stop – which is extremely unhelpful if it’s blizzarding outside and the roads are slick and the very last thing you want to do is come to a complete stop as this often makes it exceedingly difficult to get moving again. Once more, there is no way to countermand the dashboard nanny.
It knows best – and it insists.
The Lane Keep Assist systems now standard in probably half the new cars on the market and soon to be standard in every car as automated car technology further infiltrates – object if you do not signal prior to making a lane change. Even if there is no reason – other than mindless obedience to a pointless protocol – to signal. For instance, the absence of any traffic in the vicinity. Not everyone lives in a busy city. Some live in the country, and sometimes, you are the only car on the road.
Signaling in that event is kind of like knocking on the door to the bathroom in your own house when you know there’s no one in the house except yourself.
The Lane Keep Assist, however, insists.
If you don’t signal and try to change lanes, motors connected to the steering gear will countersteer to try to prevent you from changing lanes. You have to fight the computer’s determination to prevent your lane change. This is actually far more dangerous – far less saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafe – than not signaling a lane change when there’s no traffic around.
You are supposed to use your signal – no matter the relevance of signaling.
Old cars – those made prior to early 2000s – are largely free of all this stuff. Those made prior to the ’90s are completely free of this stuff. Driving one of those cars is an almost startling experience, if you only have experience with newer cars. You are in charge – of everything. The car simply does as it’s told.
Mrs. Kravitz would have a conniption fit.