Progress is a wonderful thing, but with it comes the inevitable need to say farewell to those things with which we have become familiar. In automotive terms this could eventually include the internal combustion engine and even the ability to drive a car yourself, but even the most optimistic estimates put those kind of shifts in the middle of the next decade.
Look around you today, however, and there are small but still significant changes taking place as new technology is introduced and features that were once the mainstay begin to fade into obsolescence. Below are six examples that are already well on their way out.
1. MANUAL HANDBRAKE
For anybody whose formative driving years were spent attempting to emulate the heroics of Colin McRae, the slow demise of the manually operated handbrake has been painful to watch. For everybody else, the convenience of its automated alternative is welcome, not only for how it’ll hold you on hill starts or engage and disengage automatically, but also because it frees up more space inside the car. What’s more, because an electronic handbrake uses electric motors rather than cables, it doesn’t need adjusting over time and can thus always be relied upon to hold the car stationary.
2. CD PLAYERS
While manufacturers such as Volkswagen still offer a CD player tucked away in the glovebox, for the most part the ability to play your compact discs in the car has given way to Bluetooth and USB connectivity. That’s no surprise; car manufacturers like to be at the cutting edge of technology and an easy shortcut to that is to ensure full smartphone compatibility.
Anyway, surely it’s easier to access your favourite music via Android Auto, Apple CarPlay or voice control than it is to dig around in the glovebox for the your desired CD, only to give up and settle for Phil Collins. Again.
“Has anybody seen my car keys?”
“Yes, Dad. You left them in 2002…”
Oh how our children will laugh at the idea of needing a small piece of metal and plastic to start their car. Of course keyless technology is already widespread among premium car manufacturers, whether it’s to unlock the doors via simply touching the handle, or start the engine with the press of a button. As with automatic handbrakes, the best systems are completely seamless to operate, while some brands including Volvo already allow remote starting via an app on your phone or tablet.
4. ANALOGUE REV COUNTER
There was a time when having a rev counter in your car was seen either as a little luxury or as a sure sign you were driving something sporty. Some, such as those found in BMW M cars, even featured little lights that extinguished as the engine warmed through so you knew how hard you could rev it.
In recent years however analogue rev counters have started to give way to customisable digital dials such as Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, which although clever lack the mechanical simplicity of a physical needle whipping its way around to 8000rpm.
5. CIGARETTE LIGHTERS
Cigarette lighters and ashtrays once featured in pretty much every car on sale. However, changing attitudes, laws that ban smoking in company vehicles, and the increasing need for in-car power outlets to run electronic devices have slowly resulted in manufacturers kicking the habit.
There is no panic like the panic of driving into a car wash and remembering you forgot to unscrew the aerial from the roof of your car. Do you get out and try to do it quickly before the rollers take hold? Or do you sit it out, waiting anxiously for the twang that signifies an unexpected dent in your wallet (and possibly bodywork)?
Some manufacturers got around this with aerials that retracted when not needed, but far more elegant is the emergence of shark fin antennas or even those hidden in a car’s windscreen. All of which leaves you free to enjoy the car wash in peace.
ONE WE WANT TO KEEP: BUTTONS
Car manufacturers appear to be on a crusade to banish physical buttons and dials from their interiors as they seek a minimalist aesthetic that mimics what you find on a smartphone. The problem is that when you operate a smartphone you don’t also need to be driving a car and can thus concentrate on looking at the screen. Try to carry out similarly complex functions when behind the wheel and even simple jobs such as adjusting the heating take longer than necessary, in turn distracting you from the task in hand.
We aren’t saying that touchscreens should be banned, rather that common sense should prevail when it comes to deciding what they control. Remember car-makers, buttons aren’t the enemy!
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