Experts rant and rave about Peak Oil– a point where the well runs dry, and we turn our Ford Falcon Pursuit Special into a nomadic highway assault vehicle to roam the countryside, fending off bandits. (I’ve watched Mad Max far too many times) There is a more pressing fear that we must address rather than this cataclysmic event. That impending doom is…”Peak Luxury.”
You are probably wondering, “What is Peak Luxury?”, “How do I know if I am experiencing Peak Luxury?”, “Can I get it from kissing the neighbor’s dog?” Those are all valid questions, but to ascertain an answer, we must look back on the past, when things like power windows did not come standard on all cars. It was a time when opting for the Eldorado over the Monte Carlo basically meant leather seats, power locks and windows, and standard air-conditioning. All great features to have in cars, but as these features are becoming standard in less expensive cars, upscale carmakers are forced to come up features that we may not need so much as the commonly-held notion of ‘creature comforts.’ You’ll see what I mean….
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the most shining example of a useless luxury feature. With Infiniti’s Forest Air system, the car randomizes the blower speed of the climate control to replicate a natural breeze. You know what else replicates a natural windforce? Opening the effing window! This was the feature that inspired the creation of this rant- so buckle in! (That aside, Infiniti rocks, and are on the leading edge of some much more useful in-car tech)
Quick raise of hands- who still uses CD’s on a daily basis? Got that Alanis Morisette album that you just can’t let go of? You know they have the Gin Blossoms on iTunes and Spotify, right? I don’t want to meet the person still lugging around that big canvas book of CDs. So why is it that most new cars have a CD player still? Chevrolet was wise enough to ditch the CD player in the new Spark. Too bad about the rest of the car.
Proprietary Navigation Controllers:
BMW iDrive, Audi MMI, Mercedes-Benz COMAND, Lexus Remote Touch. They all work decently well, especially the Lexus interface. iDrive finally found its feet after a decade of trying to get it right, but you know what works even better? A freaking touchscreen! Reasons like safety (drawing your eyes to the touch screen rather than the road), and the nasty appearance of smudges on the screen were given for why the Germans, and later Lexus, would develop their own proprietary controllers. But with the advent of smartphones and tablets like the iPad, people are over it now. The use of touch screens has become so ubiquitous, that to have any system other than a touch screen in your car is nothing short of hubris on the part of the automaker
Okay, this one is in the opposite direction. Which is to say, a non-luxury feature that needs to go away now that certain technologies have been made affordable on such a large scale. Anyone who has a remote key system can tell you, its amazing. You leave your key in your pocket, stroll up to your car, and- depending on the brand- either press your thumb to a button on the door or even just pull once on the door handle and the car unlocks. Slide into the driver’s seat, hit the push button start, and drive off. When you are done, just hit the button on the door handle again, and the entire car locks. It’s stupid-simple, and you never have to take your keys our of your pocket or bag. Keys are much less convenient.
Its coming. Try as you might to fight off the idea, but soon our vehicles will have mechanical domain over our own ability to navigate the open road. All the tools are in palace; lane departure sensors, distance collision sensors, shitty drivers. Nevada has already given the go-ahead for autonomous cars, and more states will follow. This may make roads safer, but it will also result in even worse drivers. Cases of unintended acceleration will be replaced by “Ghost Auto Pilot,” where some senile octogenarian refusing to use the technology drives through a farmers market and blames it on a malfunctioning auto pilot. This time is fast approaching, and there is nothing you can do to stop it…well other than mothballing a current new car, and pull it out of storage when no new cars are sold without the tech. Be prepared people…