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Horsepower Meets Hertz

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Horsepower Meets Hertz


September 20, 2006

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No, this isn’t an article about the Shelby Mustang GT-H. Rather, it’s a look at the state of technology in vehicles today.

Me, I’m a bit of a tech head. I want the latest and fastest computer. I want a big plasma screen TV. I can take pictures on my thin cell phone while talking on my Bluetooth headset. I love seeing and experiencing advances in technology because to me new technology – in most cases -- means progress and if there’s one thing I like, it is progress. (I’ll come back to my “in most cases” caveat later.)

In addition to being a technology fan, I also consider myself a car enthusiast. So when there’s new technology being developed for cars, it’s always of interest to me.

Modern Age Motoring Miracles...

It’s incredible the amount of convenience even mainstream modern cars offer compared to those of just a decade ago. Here are some of my favorites:

*Keyless entry and start: Even some the cheapest cars have this feature as at least an option. No more fumbling around with keys; just pull the door handle, plant your seat in the seat, press a button and you’re off.

*Navigation systems: I’d kill to have one of these in my car. No longer to people have to put up with oversized, unintelligible and impossible to refold paper maps. Mapquest, you say? That can’t automatically offer a detour like the more advanced systems can based on traffic conditions.

*General engine technology: Direct injection, displacement-on-demand, hybrid powertrains – all things that are great advancements in automobile technology. They allow us to drive vehicles that allow us to get more from less. Thanks to technologies such these, modern engines are more powerful while being more economical. Who can argue with that?

But probably most importantly....

*Safety advancements: Whether it be passive (frontal, side, head curtain, hell -- even knee airbags; active head restraints) or active (anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control, rollover prevention systems) safety is a vital part of the automobile. Modern technology has made it so vehicle occupants (and even those who aren’t occupants) have a greater chance of walking away from accidents or avoiding them altogether.

However, not everyone feels all of this new age tech is such a great thing.

...or Newfangled Contraptions

“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.”

Aldous Huxley said that. Now, I have no idea when he said that. I don’t even know who he is. The point is, though, that there are some car guys out there that would readily agree with him....whoever he is.

I can’t say they don’t have something of a point. Modern vehicle technology does have its negatives:

*It can make things pricier when equipment goes wrong.

*Come to think of it...there’s more stuff to go wrong.

*It makes things more difficult (if not impossible) for the shadetree mechanic.

*It drives up the cost of new cars.

I do think it can get excessive at times. Do you really need a 7-speed transmission with two reverse speeds? Are you going to die if your car can’t parallel park itself (though admittedly I try to avoid it as much as possible)? Infrared imaging at night does have its pluses but really, it doesn’t do much better than what a combination of good car and street lighting does already.

But I think the biggest argument against all of this technology is that it detracts from the overall driving experience (mostly the safety-related tech). Electric/active steering setups can feel loose and artificial. Stability control can sap the fun out of spirited driving (and they can’t always be fully deactivated). Pedestrian safety systems don’t allow you to splatter the tool who decides to cross the busy street in the middle of it as apposed to at a crosswalk.

And then there are simply those purists that think things like A/C, power windows and engines that don’t need a choke or crank to start are frivolous luxuries.

These are all valid arguments and concerns but...

Sorry, Grampa

As I said in the beginning, I’m a guy who loves his technology and his cars. Overall, I don’t feel modern technology has negatively affected the modern car that much. Cars are safer, stronger, faster, more economical and (despite the nanny technologies) more fun than ever. There will always be those who oppose advancement and change and for them I have this quote:

“You can't expect to hit the jackpot if you don't put a few nickels in the machine.”

Flip Wilson said that. And I do know who he is...sort of.

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i think the bigger idea is we're coming full circle w/ these ideas... you know, first cars were battery or steam powered, now it's the hybrid craze...

cars at first were expensive, then "ford" came and made cheap cars for the masses, now most of them are "expensive" for the average Joe.

safety... first were to slow to really be bad, it's own safety... kinda

now if it doesn't have at least 2 airbags it's a death trap...

the rain sensing convert, started w/ the y-job, now it's in benz's right?

well for repairs... yeah, it can cost$$$ real quickly...

engine tech... as far as main stream cars... yeah... but the ideas are prolly still 20years old or more...

but as allways, tech either makes things possible, or makes them cheaper.

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