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Jalopnik: The 25 Most Redundant Car Technologies [Car Gadgets]

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Ever get the feeling automakers are trying to remove you, the driver, from the driving experience? Well you should, because they are. Here's 25 automotive technological "advancements" designed to make you irrelevant and redundant.

504x_Redundant_Auto_Tech.jpgWe're not complete Luddites, give us all iPod integration, airbags and horse-power boosting tech you want. Just don't reduce our ability to control our cars. Sadly, modern cars are doing just that. Instead of adding complication and weight, we want car manufacturers to follow Colin Chapman's advice: "Simplify, then add lightness."

504x_10Taur_cloth_seat.jpgName: Electrically Adjustable Seats

What it does: Electric motors adjust car seats at the push of a button... well, at the push/pull/toggle of several buttons.

Extreme example: The massaging seats in the 2010 Ford Taurus that add two compartmented airbags and all their associated electronics and motors to the usual equipment.

Why it's redundant: The electric motors take up space, meaning seats sit higher than they need to, and add weight and complication. Manual seats are just as quick to adjust, offer a larger range of adjustment because there's no space occupied by motors, weigh less and are less likely to break.

504x_XJ_rain_wipers.jpgName: Rain Sensing Wipers and Automatic Headlights

What it does: Sensors detect the presence of rain and/or darkness then switch on the wipers, headlights or both.

Extreme example: The Adaptive Highbeam Assist system on the 2010 Mercedes E-Class, which automatically adjusts the throw and pattern of the headlights when other cars are present.

Why it's redundant: Believe it or not, humans are able to use their eyes and judgement to determine when wipers and lights are needed better than a computer. For example: when approaching a tunnel, a human can switch on the lights ahead of time. A human is less likely to have its light sensors obscured by dirt or road debris.

Name: Automatic Seatbelts

Extreme Example: Select 1980s GMs, Nissans and Civics with both automatic should and lap belts. They were impossible to enter or exit.

Why it's redundant: A human is perfectly capable of fastening his or her own seatbelt and, if they're not, don't deserve the protection offered anyway. Automatic should belts gave drivers a false sense of security with many failing to manually secure their lap belts. In the event of a crash their bodies would slide under the shoulder belt, meaning there was very little restraint on offer. Thankfully now defunct.

504x_soundpipe-540x361.jpgName: Sound Pipes

Extreme Example: The 2010 Ford Mustang GT, in which an extraneous exhaust pipe is routed through the dashboard to bring engine sound into the cabin.

Why it's redundant: If cars didn't carry several hundred pounds of sound deadening, they wouldn't need extra sound pipes. The alternative, rolling down your windows, is cheaper and easier than installing a extraneous pipe.

keyless_ignition.jpgName: Keyless Ignition

Extreme Example: Current Mazdas just put a plastic cap over the traditional ignition slot. If you already have to twist something, why not the key?

Why it's redundant: In an attempt to overly-simplify the very complicated process of starting a car, keyless ignitions actually introduce another layer of complication and increase the risk of leaving your keys in the car. If it's not broke, don't fix it.

Name: Digital Dashboards

Extreme Example: 1988 Buick Regal

Why it's redundant: Replacing perfectly functioning and reliable instrumentation that's vital to the safe operation of a car with something that's harder to read and breaks a lot is not a good idea.

504x_RearViewCamera.jpgName: Reverse Parking Sensors and Rearview Cameras

Extreme Example: The 2010 Acura MDX which offers three camera views.

Why it's redundant: If SUVs weren't so huge and didn't have such bad vision, you'd be able to park them without using the same level of technology it takes to dock at the International Space Station. An added bonus to better vision? Increased safety!

504x_0306_1z_Kleeman_E50K_Mercedes_Benz_Name: Non-Defeatable Traction and Stability Control

Extreme Example: The BMW X6 M which uses its stability control system to defy the laws of physics and make a 5,000 Lbs SUV go around corners.

Why it's redundant: Believe it or not, before the advent of traction and stability control, human beings were able to use something called "skill" to safely operate their vehicles. The systems not only reduce the level of interaction and therefore attention required of a driver, but also reduce control off-road, in the snow and in other slippery conditions where wheelspin is actually a good thing.

504x_toyota-prius-hybrid-2010-engine-imgName: Gasoline/Electric Hybrid Powertrains

Extreme Example: The 2010 Honda Insight, which is actually much less efficient than the faster, better driving, more practical, diesel-equipped European Honda Civic.

Why it's redundant: There's better technology out there. Diesel engines cost less, consume less energy and resources in production, a far less complicated and are capable of equal or greater fuel-economy.

504x_ford_activeparkassist.jpgName: Automatic Parallel Parking Systems

Extreme Example: The Lexus LS600h which is capable of selecting an appropriate parking space then putting itself in that place with very little input from the driver.

Why it's redundant: The human mind is also able to determine the location of an appropriate parking space then maneuvering a vehicle into that space. There's a reason parallel parking is part of the driving test.

504x_drive__l.jpgName: Radar Cruise Control and Electronic Crumple Zones

Extreme Example: The 2010 Mercedes E-Class which is not only capable of maintaining a constant distance from other vehicles on the highway, but, when it determines a collision is imminent, applying 100% of the braking force to reduce the force of the crash.

Why it's redundant: Humans are also able to determine appropriate following distances and applying 100% of the brakes to avoid a collision. Being required to do so maintains a consistently high level of attention which can also avoid other dangerous situations.

504x_vw_dsg_diagram_lg.jpgName: Intelligent Gearboxes

Extreme Example:The VW DSG ‘box which, in automatic mode, is able to learn when a driver is operating the vehicle in a sporting manner, then adjusting shift points and times to suit.

Why it's redundant: a human being equipped with a manual gearbox is additionally capable of predicting what gear will be required in the near future, placing the vehicle in that gear ahead of time and therefore being prepared for, rather than simply respond to, a situation.

504x_Ferrari-F430-_4_-787971.jpgName: Automated Manual Gearboxes

Extreme Example: A Formula One car.

Why it's redundant: manual gearboxes are more reliable and more versatile, with the human-applied clutch able to deliver smooth progress at slow speeds.

504x_Climate_control_system1.JPGName: Automatic Climate Control

Extreme Example: The 2010 Acura MDX which is able to use GPS to determine the location of the sun and adapt the climate control to blow cooler on the sunny side of the vehicle, guaranteeing a perfectly even temperature throughout the passenger cabin.

Why it's redundant: How many sensors, motors and computer chips does it take to achieve the above? With traditional air conditioning and heaters, you're simply able to adjust the temperature as needed. Nothing more is required.

504x_456016_770733_4800_3820_795438a96f4Name: Drive-By-Wire

Extreme Example: The 2009 BMW Z4 which features both brake-by-wire and steer-by-wire.

Why it's redundant: Drive-by-wire systems reduce weight and complication and, in the case of steer-by-wire, improve fuel economy by eliminating the need for a power steering pump. But, they reduce feel. In the case of the Z4, this lack of feel spoils an otherwise truly impressive sports car.

504x_ONE_XLS_slim_mount.jpgName: Satellite Navigation

Extreme Example: The in-development Microsoft heads-up-display system which will project a ghost vehicle in front of your car, then allow you to follow it rather than respond to spoken or visual instructions.

Why it's redundant: For centuries, humans have managed to navigate with little more than a paper map and a compass. No matter how slick the graphics, satellite navigation systems have not yet surpassed this ability.

ART_active_force._eng.jpgName: Active Sound Cancellation

Extreme Example: The 2010 Acura MDX, which projects mirror-image sound waves of "undesirable" engine and road noises, canceling them out.

Why it's redundant: Being inundated with engine and wind noise your whole life will slowly make you deaf, which is kind of nature's own Active Sound Cancellation.

ads_220.jpgName: Adaptive Suspension

Extreme Example: The Variable Orifice Dampers in the 2010 Cadillac SRX

Why it's redundant: Intended to offer both a smooth ride and good handling, adaptive suspension makes sacrifices in both to offer a limited ability to deliver either. Low unsprung weight and high quality dampers have yet to be surpassed in their ability to delivery optimal vehicle dynamics, they just don't sound as sexy on a Monroney.

504x_ford-sync-20090520-600.jpgName: Anything-By-Voice

Extreme Example: Ford Sync 3.0

Why it's redundant: Any vehicle function that's too complicated to be achieved by button, lever, wheel or pedal is unnecessary for vehicle operation. Call people, get directions and drink your coffee before setting out on a journey.

blind_spot_assist-thumb.JPGName: Blind Spot Detectors

Extreme Example: The 2009 Audi Q7; it's blind spot warning lights are blindingly bright and overly sensitive.

Why it's redundant: By styling vehicles with small glass houses, designers are creating unnecessarily large blind spots, thereby creating the need for detectors. Install function before form and this wouldn't be necessary.

504x_ag_07s550_nightvision.jpgName: Night Vision

Extreme Example: The 2010 Mercedes E-Class which paints the road ahead with infrared light then detects these reflections with windshield-mounted sensors.

Why it's redundant: Cars have headlights don't they? If it's too dark to see, slow down.

504x_ag_07a6avant_parkingbrake.jpgName: Automatic Emergency Brakes

Extreme Example: The Honda Pilot has an automatic transmission, but still has a system capable of holding it steady on steep hills.

Why it's redundant: Equipped with two hands and two feet, humans have traditionally been capable of operating either a hand or foot emergency brake. Automatic or electronic brakes simply replicate that ability poorly and make it impossible to perform handbrake turns.

504x_2008-12-24attentionassist.jpgName: Attention Assist

Extreme Example: The 2010 Mercedes E-class uses an array of sensors to monitor steering wheel input, eye movement and seating position, all to tell if you're dozy.

Why it's redundant: If you're tired, take a break. No engineering teams needed.

504x_2010_toyota_prius_interior_10.jpgName: Lane Monitoring

Extreme Example: The Citroen C4's seat gives you a pleasant vibration in your nether regions if it detects you're departing your lane on the highway.

Why it's redundant: Like Attention Assist, if you're incapable of paying enough attention to stay in your lane, you shouldn't be driving. Humans will develop a false sense of security due to the system and use it as an excuse to not pay attention.

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Some of these I agree with but some are completely dumb (as in the article is dumb, not the technology).

Why don't we all just drive around in completely feature-less manual-everything econoboxes? That seems to be where this article is pointing. While a great idea from an environmental standpoint, completely idiotic to actually consider.

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I never knew about the 'sound pipe' in the Mustang GT, and that has to be the dumbest thing ever.

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I'd prefer to do without at least 90% of these gadgets!

Love the spirit of the article.

Alas, so many folks are gadget pansies these days.

Thus the rest of us end up with all this junk in our cars.

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I like my Auto climate control, and after having a vehicle without automatic lights, I greatly appreciate this feature. Rainsense...meh I usually have it off, but this is LA.

Electronic seats? Yes please.

Traction control? Wish I had it.

This article is BS. Someone just likes to bitch and moan.

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Some of the points are valid, yet at the same time this article comes off as incredibly stupid and as little more than the bitching of someone who is stuck in the past. More than half of the very things that are being bitched about would be bitched about by this site and others for not having them.

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It all depends on what angle you come to the topic from.

For the most part, I see all of these items as unnecessary weight and complication.

Thusly, I find the extremes the E-class goes to intolerably invasive to the driving experience.

I wouldn't own that car at any price - total turnoff.

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Name: Active Sound Cancellation

Extreme Example: The 2010 Acura MDX, which projects mirror-image sound waves of "undesirable" engine and road noises, canceling them out.

Why it's redundant: Being inundated with engine and wind noise your whole life will slowly make you deaf, which is kind of nature's own Active Sound Cancellation.

Wow, just wow. Is this supposed to be a bad joke? Are we to take this seriously?

Why have seat belts or air bags? You're going to die eventually anyway.

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Thus the rest of us end up with all this junk in our cars.

There's always the Aveo LS1 for people who don't need the frills. :AH-HA_wink:

$12,000 and 30~ mpg. Nobody's forcing anyone to purchase all these gadgets.

Edited by siegen
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I don't care what equiptment junk like an Aveo has, I just don't like a bunch of techno-refuse in cars I would actually like to own.

Simple is better.

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Some observations on this:

Leather sets suck - cloth is more comfortable (I know it's not gadget-related, but in the same vein). I would have preferred cloth seats in my GTO.

Power seats: With good manual seats, I'm quite happy. However, not all manual seats adjust well enough (my 05 Silverado would have been more adjustable and comfortable with the power option). On the other hand, My GTO's power seats were so damn slow as to be almost useless. For me, adjustability is the important factor.

Traction control: Great! As long as you can shut it off.

Door chimes: Invention of Satan.

Auto-locking doors on a regular cab 3/4 ton pickup: useless, pointless, and irritating.

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Agree with some, not with others. Most of the extreme ones probably won't stick around that long, and will be a fanciful silly feature we'll look back on & chuckle. Others may evolve into something that actually is useful. Still, I'm surprised considering some of the things included they didn't also throw in ABS, power windows & locks, automatic transmissions in general (there was obvious disdain, which I can understand, but the auto trans has its place), air conditioning (cuz gosh, you could roll down your windows), and other things in this vein. Heck, carpet in cars is redundant - there's already a floor, and most people in cars wear shoes anyway! Same goes for headliners!

(it would actually be very interesting to see a car come out that was as super super basic as can be, without being a pile of steaming crap like the Tata Nano.)

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Some observations on this:

Leather sets suck - cloth is more comfortable (I know it's not gadget-related, but in the same vein). I would have preferred cloth seats in my GTO.

I used to think this, but now I've seen the light and I wonder on what planet cloth is more comfortable. Real, quality leather is way better than cloth IMO. I'm sure you'd love some velour though :rotflmao:

Traction control: Great! As long as you can shut it off.

I agree

Auto-locking doors on a regular cab 3/4 ton pickup: useless, pointless, and irritating.

I love them...but then in a Chrysler teh doors unlock when you pull the handle. :P

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I think brakes are overrated and redundant. Surely you will come to a stop once your run into something.

The engine is redundant. Cut a hole in the floor and use your legs.

The car is redundant. Walk or ride a bike.

This has got to be the worst article I've ever seen from Jalopnik.

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That Microsoft HUD sounds totally awesome!

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I don't mind automatic climate control if it's the relatively simple type. I just want to set the temperature and the fan can adjust as needed. That's all I need. I don't want it adjusting for if I have a fever and it doesn't need a GPS hookup. It should just work as the thermostat in my house and that's all.

I don't mind traction control in daily driving situations. It's saved my butt more than once... but I do want to be able to turn it off.

I actually like digital dash. I never found it hard to read.

All the rest of it is just fluff that SMK would lose his load over, but all it does is detract from the driving experience.

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I used to think this, but now I've seen the light and I wonder on what planet cloth is more comfortable. Real, quality leather is way better than cloth IMO. I'm sure you'd love some velour though :rotflmao:

Ummm, try Earth?

Leather is just vinyl with a higher price tag. Do you sleep on leather sheets?

The GTO seats were pretty good as far as leather goes (nice grain and perforations), but still not as comfortable as cloth.

Velour isn't what I think of when I say cloth - not resilient and durable enough.

I love them...but then in a Chrysler teh doors unlock when you pull the handle. :P

My truck is a work vehicle, the doors need to be opened and closed all the time while working. You jump in an out while performing tasks, and with a helper, I am forced to put the truck into park to open the damn doors. On a vehicle like this, they serve no useful purpose whatsoever. They are an irritant in the regular day-to-day use of the truck.

We are not talikng minivan mommie-mobile here.

Edited by Camino LS6
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My take:

Electrically adjustable seats = Pointless and slow. But for people with mobility issues... or they're too large to reach around themselves to adjust the seat properly - in my case, I could do without

Rain sensing wipers = Pointless / Automatic headlights = (shrug) useful but unnecessary (had them in the Monte Carlo and was annoyed that I couldn't turn my lights off manually without having to set the e-brake)

Automatic seatbelts = We don't see them anymore anyway, which shows how dumb they are

Sound Pipes = I didn't even know something so stupid existed, 'nuff said

Keyless Ignition = Pointless. I'd rather have my key there so I know where my key is in the first place. If I have to turn something anyway...

Digital Dash = Not a fan, and would probably not enjoy them in any car I'd be interested in

Reverse Sensors and Cameras = I think sensors tend to replace driver responsibility (staring at the roof panel while backing, "wait for the bong, wait for the bong... BONG, okay far enough"...) / Cameras have their use, in Winnebago's

Non-defeatable Traction / Stability Control = Depends upon the car. I don't expect too many people to be rip-snorting in a FWD Aurora to desire a defeat switch for added fun

Hybrid Technology = More useful in smaller, lighter cars

Auto parking system = If you don't have the skill to do it yourself, you don't deserve the parking spot

Radar cruise control = I can keep distance on my own, thank you very much

Intelligent Gearboxes = I have one that controls the shifting point in our car based on three modes - it's actually pretty decent so I have no complaints

Automated Manual Gearboxes = If it's automatic, leave it that way... if it's a manual, get rid of the stick and put on the "flappy-paddles". If it's automatic with "flappy-paddles", gimme an eye roll

Automatic Climate Control = Useful, but I rarely use it anyway - Dual-mode is really handy though

Drive-by Wire = Good if it reduces weight in a car, but annoying when I hear people begin to say how throttle-by wire gives them much quicker throttle response (It doesn't, but if it did, you drive a four cylinder $h!-box, would it matter?)

Sat Nav = Better than a glovebox full of huge maps I say, but I'd rather have a compact, portable unit and not one stuck to just one vehicle

Active Sound Cancellation = Eh, I don't care about this one

Adaptive Suspension = In every day driving, it's not a must-have on my list

Anything By Voice = I like it. While I can use my steering wheel to adjust my stereo, I don't dial my phone and would prefer if I could tell Sat. Nav. to give me directions instead of programming it in beforehand. More of this to help control simple features in the car would be useful for many to help keep their attention on the road.

Blind-spot Detectors = I have them, they're VERY useful and I take them with me where ever I go. My eyes are good enough, thank you very much

Night Vision = Meh

Automatic Emergency Brakes = Meh

Attention Assist = Meh

Lane Monitoring = Meh - Let's see it work on our snow-covered roads, then we'll talk.

These days, technology is fast becoming the motivation behind vehicle sales and it's replacing what most people should still be concerned about with their vehicle: The comfort, the ride, the handling, the engine, the transmission, the maintenance costs, the MPG ratings, ... not if it has a nifty feature that goes "BONG! Hey idiot, you just about ran over that cyclist next to you."

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Ummm, try Earth?

Leather is just vinyl with a higher price tag. Do you sleep on leather sheets?

The GTO seats were pretty good as far as leather goes (nice grain and perforations), but still not as comfortable as cloth.

Velour isn't what I think of when I say cloth - not resilient and durable enough.

My truck is a work vehicle, the doors need to be opened and closed all the time while working. You jump in an out while performing tasks, and with a helper, I am forced to put the truck into park to open the damn doors. On a vehicle like this, they serve no useful purpose whatsoever. They are an irritant in the regular day-to-day use of the truck.

We are not talikng minivan mommie-mobile here.

There isn't something in the owners manual that tells you how to turn off this feature?

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There isn't something in the owners manual that tells you how to turn off this feature?

Unfortunately, no.

My 2001 Silverado wasn't so afflicted, and the addition of these asinine auto-locks on the 2005 makes me miss the older truck.

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There isn't something in the owners manual that tells you how to turn off this feature?

Nothing in our GMC trucks allow to shut this off. I certainly don't like the auto-lock feature since I have to do just as Camino said, manually unlocking the door so someone can jump in since I would otherwise have to put the truck in park for it to automatically unlock itself. PITA!

Strangely, the 5-ton (Top Kick) doesn't have this feature.

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If economies of scale dictate that this stuff has to be included on every vehicle, an off button would go a long way toward pleasing the customer.

I would like to be making the decisions in my own vehicle.

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