Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


AVOWED TECHIE though I am, some modern automotive offerings have me wondering. Here are my current citations in both categories, High Tech and Why Tech.

Rear view camera. High Tech! These give a view immediately behind the car, something even the best adjusted mirrors cannot accomplish. In fact, there has been talk of making such cameras mandatory. Note, the camera view does not replace a head turn to the rear. Rather, it’s a welcomed additional check.

Ford gets its point across in a light-hearted way.

I’m less enthusiastic about fancy-schmancy top views of the entire car. These are technically interesting but only marginally useful from a safety point of view.

Lane Departure Warning. Why Tech? These provide audible or tactile alert that your car is changing lanes. Even the best algorithms cannot determine whether you intend this change; the worst of them offer too many “falses.”

If you need such warning, maybe it’s time to reassess transportation options.

Onboard Navigation. High Tech! Even when I know my destination and route, a nav system provides real-time progress and ETA. The best ones have other search features as well, a combination phonebook/atlas.

The best of navigation systems provide more than simply directions.

I prefer built-in nav systems to add-on devices. Controls on these latter are often tiny and fiddly. In some jurisdictions, it’s illegal to mount them where they do any good. True, the built-ins cost more. But it’s money well spent.

Internet connectivity. Why Tech? Here I object to Internet use in the active sense of interconnectedness, not the passive sense. I’m whacko about satellite radio, Tunein Radio, Pandora and the like, each a wonderful means of narrowcasting. But the thought of a driver checking e-mail—or worse yet, of responding!—scares me no end.

The mind boggles….

I love driving. And I love the Internet. But I don’t believe in multi-tasking when the task is driving.

Bluetooth. High Tech! Built-in Bluetooth gives full integration of a car and cell phone. The best algorithms are completely voice-actuated and hands-free.

Many Bluetooth functions are initiated with a single touch of a button.

I have a philosophical quandary with phone communication while driving. Some say it’s no more distracting than talking with a passenger in the car, but I disagree. Passengers share your driving environment, albeit not your responsibilities. By contrast, the person on the other end of the phone connection has no way of recognizing when traffic takes a quick turn for the worse and demands your complete attention.

Of course, texting is right up there with Internet e-mail.

EV Quick Charging. Why Tech? I’m enthusiastic about electric vehicles, everything from conventional hybrids through plug-in hybrids and battery electrics to tomorrow’s fuel cell variety. I can see the concept of dedicated home or work recharging. But—except in the AAA emergency aid sense—I can’t buy into “quick charging.”

This kind of “quick charge/get me home” makes sense. Otherwise, there are significant tradeoffs.

First, replenishing perhaps 80 percent of a battery’s charge in 30 minutes is detrimental to longevity of the battery pack—the most expensive component of any EV. Second, it’s an expensive application of EV infrastructure: A high-amperage charging station costs an order of magnitude or more than one replenishing charge in hours, not minutes. Third, how much of a gambler are you? Would you assume this opportunistic recharge point will be a) working?, b) compatible with your car?, and c) not already occupied by another EV?

And, last, when a fill-up of conventional fuel—or even CNG or H2—takes no more than several minutes, how can this partial replenishment be called “quick”?

Start/Stop and Variable-Displacement Engines. High Tech! Eliminating unnecessary periods of idle saves fuel and reduces pollution.

Some Start/Stops, such as this BMW’s, offer the option of its use.

Disabling selected cylinders in light-load conditions does the same. Today’s technology of variable-valve hardware accomplishes this well-nigh seamlessly.

Automatic self-parking. Why Tech? I’ve experienced this technology—and it’s fascinating. But if you’re inept enough to avoid a parking space, this advanced technology might only compromise the cars directly ahead of and behind yours.

Interesting technology, but does it “unpark” as well?

Besides, why remove one of the major challenges in passing that DMV Driving Test? God knows, we in this country don’t demand much of our drivers as it is. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2012

One comment on “HIGH TECH, WHY TECH

  1. Suz (@suzygruyere)
    November 27, 2012

    Last week I rented a Ford Focus. It had blue lights pointing out the cupholders and door handles — okay, I kinda get those. But the blue lights illuminating the front footwells? Sorry, but if you need to see where the pedals are, you should probably consider taking a cab instead. 🙂

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This entry was posted on November 24, 2012 by in Driving it Today and tagged , .
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