- Helping you drive happy

Technological Distractions

My colleague recently wrote a blog about the increasing amount of technological bits and bobs in vehicles these days. She even brought up the fact that autonomous cars aren't that far away; in fact, technically, they're already here. She likened today's society to the blobs of Disney's Wall-e -- and she's not far off. While her blog was about the disconnect these gadgets are creating in the world in general, I'd like to focus on the distraction aspect of it all.

Distraction from what? Well, from poorly designed vehicles, of course.

I know I've said it before: there's no such thing as a bad car. There are, however, bad parts of cars and I think that today's technology in vehicles is often there as a distraction to keep us from noticing the bits that maybe aren't so stellar.

So, your car's seats aren't very well designed and they're pretty uncomfortable for longer drives? Oh, that doesn't matter because you can listen to internet radio while you drive. Steering feel a bit numb in your latest vehicle purchase? Meh, that's OK because your car will read your text messages and answer them too so you can really focus on that steering despite its shortcomings.

I don't know, call me crazy, but I feel like our removal from driving isn't just making us numb to the world as my coworker pointed out, but its also allowing the manufacturers to skimp on the more important details like handling, engine performance, and a general appreciation for the drive.

Don't overreact to what I'm saying here: Today's cars are not horrible to drive, nor do they have dangerous steering nor are they unable to brake properly. That's not what I'm getting at. What I am getting at is a slow degradation of said components in today’s vehicles. As in, manufacturers are letting certain things slide while they let other things take precedent over them.

I get it; technology is important in today's world. I don't think cars should be barebones when it comes to gadgets like Bluetooth or even smartphone connectivity, in fact I think it's extremely important. We live in a world where a connection to technology is inevitable, so we need to make it as safe and accessible as we can, especially behind the wheel.

It pains me to think about cars becoming mobile iPhones and losing what makes them what they are: driveable. I'm sure it's not an easy thing to balance the barrage of hi-tech, fuel-economy, safety, and design elements needed to make a "good" vehicle these days, especially when you add in a fun-to-drive aspect on top of that. I don't envy today's engineers and designers. They've got a big job.

I hope, though, that amongst all the geeks and tech-savvy vehicle designers, there are still drivers peppered in there, those who know what it means to really drive a car, swap gears and hammer down on the throttle; those who care more about rev-matching than voice recognition and head-up displays; those who thrive on exhaust note, not the number of tweeters a dash can hold.

Fingers crossed.

Ford F-150 Limited 2013 console
Photo: Philippe Champoux