We applaud automakers for trying to come up with systems that can do all kinds of interesting things, but we wish that these systems would bake a little longer before coming out of the oven.
echnology is becoming ever more pervasive in modern automobiles, but that doesn't mean it is all good. Some pieces of modern technology drive us batty.
In some cases, the problem is a good idea that was poorly executed, while in other cases we'd rather trade new-fangled technology for old-fashioned simplicity. Other times, it's government-mandated features that have us fuming.
We present this list with one caveat: Some of this tech was on the market before 2012, but we're including it because it became more and more prevalent in cars this year, as technology trickles down from more expensive cars into mainstream models.
Unintuitive infotainment: We were all set to single out Ford's MyFordTouch/MyLincolnTouch as the only culprit in this category, but the truth is all of these systems annoy us to varying degrees. Even the ones we like, such as Cadillac's CUE (Cadillac User Experience) have flaws. There are bugs or system crashes that make us angry—MyFordTouch has done this to us a few times—and in other cases, we find that the systems aren't intuitive enough, or take too long to learn, or have voice-recognition systems that don't recognize commands. And yet, more and more of these systems are hitting the market, as automakers try to woo consumers weaned on smartphones. We applaud automakers for trying to come up with systems that can do all kinds of interesting things, but we wish that these systems would bake a little longer before coming out of the oven.
Mandatory traction control:Traction control has been available or standard on most models for a long time, but for the 2012 model year, the federal government made it mandatory. While we're far from anti-government types, we liked the fact that automakers could choose to produce cars like the previous-generation Dodge Viper, which had no traction control. While adding traction control to the upcoming Viper (now an SRT product) will make that car less scary, we kind of wish that the government had left that decision up to Chrysler. That's not because we don't like safe cars, but because in some cases, we'd love to see automakers have the choice not to include them. Once in a while, it's cool to pit man versus physics with no safety aids, and since traction control is so widely available anyway, we see no need for government intervention. At least most of these systems can be turned off and/or defeated.
Overly-intrusive blind-spot monitoring systems: We like blind-spot monitoring systems, since they can be very helpful on crowded freeways and densely packed city streets, but we don't like ones that haven’t been fine-tuned. Concrete dividers shouldn't set them off, for example (yes, this has happened to us). The concept is great, the execution just needs a tad more work.
Voice-recognition: Lots of cars, even those without infotainment systems, have voice-recognition systems. And despite the fact that most of these systems have been around a while, very few of them work reliably. Either they don't understand us, or the command structure is too rigid (meaning that precise commands must be used, or a precise order must be followed, with no variation. It's like an automotive soup Nazi). Automakers are working on improving these systems, but for now they frustrate us way too often.
Bluetooth: Yes, Bluetooth has been around a while, and it's been available in mainstream models for some time, too. Yet we're including it because even the least expensive models are usually available with Bluetooth—in fact, we can't recall the last car we tested that didn't have it. This means Bluetooth is finally completely ubiquitous, so it annoys us at all price points. Bluetooth is another piece of tech that's great in theory, poor in execution (come to think of it, that explains everything on this list). We love the idea of hands-free cell-phone use, especially in cities/states where hands-free use is mandated by law, but we're growing tired of having to repeat ourselves because the microphone can't pick up our words. We've also heard complaints from those on the other line that our voice sounded garbled. Here's hoping that these systems continue to improve.