Cars are safer, more fuel efficient, and more reliable than ever before while also offering previously unprecedented levels of options and amenities. Features that were considered luxury items just a few years ago have trickled down to mass-market, value-oriented vehicles, but are all of these new doodads really necessary? Some modern car options pack a wow-factor, but do they really make the driving experience better or are they merely gimmicks shilled by the auto industry to increase profit margins?
In-Dash Navigation Systems
At the beginning of the 21st century, in-dash navigation systems were the exclusive domain of high-dollar luxury cars. The systems seemed like the future and could only be had on the finest offerings from the finest automakers, but then they trickled down as optional equipment on nearly every car offered for sale by the 2014 model year. This should be great news for us proles, right? Why should the bourgeoisie be the only people to know where they are going? Well, the problem is that the iPhone was released in 2007. Nearly everyone has a smartphone with navigation capabilities these days, especially those in the market for a brand new vehicle. Why pay a thousand dollars or more for an in-dash navigation system that is more difficult to control and will be obsolete in a year when you already own a device capable of doing the same thing?
Touchscreen Infotainment and Climate Control
Automakers keep pushing touchscreen infotainment and climate control centers in their cars — and buyers keep falling for it. This optional equipment can add hundreds to thousands of dollars to your new car’s sticker price, but does it actually make the driving experience better and your life easier? No matter how well the interface is designed, there is an inherent flaw in touchscreen radio, media, and climate controls. The flaw, you ask? There is no tactile feedback so you actually become more distracted as you look to the infotainment center’s screen to adjust your climate settings. Buttons with solid ergonomic design are better suited for most of these applications as you can use your sense of touch instead of your sense of sight when fiddling with the air or heat. Flashy isn’t always more useful or safer.
Moisture-Sensing Windshield Wipers
While not as big of a status symbol or as expensive, this is another useless car option that you should try to avoid if you want to save money and decrease stress when driving. Moisture-sensing windshield wipers seem awesome on paper except the execution is still lacking. This optional car feature rarely works as intended and you often wind up fiddling with the wiper control to find just the right speed for the amount of rain on your windshield, which is exactly the problem this feature was designed to solve. It’s truly amazing that this seems so difficult to nail when you consider the advanced algorithms that operate nearly everything we do online.
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