NMA Article: Is New Technology Creating Bad Drivers?
By Eric Peters, Automotive Columnist
I got into writing about cars because I enjoy driving — which is why I sometimes find myself less and less interested in new cars.
As our roads have congealed into mobile parking lots where it doesn’t matter whether you’re driving a ‘78 Chevette or brand-new Corvette; as the automakers fall over each other in their frantic scramble to idiot-proof their products against an ever-less-competent driving public; as traffic laws become more and more over the top, the joy of new cars — even very powerful ones — wanes.
What, after all, is the point of owning a 500 horsepower Ford GT or Corvette Z06 in a world where using even half of that capability (if you can find a place to do so) risks a felony? (Driving faster than 80 mph in many states can subject you to immediate curbside arrest and a few days in the clink — if the judge doesn’t like your looks.)
And that’s just the law. Other forces are also hard at work to suck the joy out of the driving experience.
For example, most new performance cars have some kind of “dynamic” or “active” electronic controller that will only permit so much hooliganism. Spinning the tires is either not allowed at all — or severely limited — by the electronics. There indeed may be an “off” button, but these system sometimes don’t shut themselves all the way off.
The transistorized nanny is a suffocating omnipresence that makes driving even a very high-powered car far less engaging than driving a non-neutered car of far less potential capability. Having 100 percent control of a “50 percent car” is better, in my mind, than having 50 percent control of a 100 percent car.
The automakers are systematically working to take the driver out of the equation; it may not be deliberate — and is probably more due to the convergence of piranha lawyers on the one hand and mewling mobs of “safety” advocates on the other. Still, the end result is the same: New cars are increasingly defined by the presence of “perpetual training wheels” that not only presume incompetence — but arguably encourage more of it.
© 2008 NMA