Little Brothers

Every new car is infested with Little Brothers – in the form of code and programming that “corrects” outright or thwarts whatever it is you wanted to do.

It goes way beyond the Seat Belt Nanny.

Have you tried backing up a new car with the driver’s door cracked open? Several won’t allow it – refusing to engage Reverse until you close the door. You can try all day to move the shifter into Reverse – but programming controls whether the transmission will comply. It’s all drive-by-wire now, you see. So no direct, mechanical connection between the gear selector and the transmission. When you select a gear, you are merely asking the computer to engage Drive or Reverse – and the computer is the ultimate Decider, not you.

But why would you want to back the car up with the door open? Not that it is anyone’s business – certainly not an insolent computer’s – but that’s how people used to be taught to Reverse in close quarters, because you could see better. The curb, for example. Of course, this entailed some judgment and motor skills which are now lacking – and certainly not taught. Instead, people are taught to gape at a screen rather than actually look in the direction they’re backing the car up.

And if you try it the old school way, Little Brother will step in to “correct” you. The transmission shifts itself into Neutral and – in some cars – the electronic parking brake engages.

Time to buy old US gold coins

Speaking of that. . .

The computer-controlled “eBrake” is replacing the traditional driver-controlled pull-up emergency brake.  Unlike the pull-up brake controlled by the driver, which can be partially and gradually engaged as the driver likes, the eBrake is either all the way on – or all the way off – your role limited to pushing the button.

And sometimes, not even that.

In several new cars, the eBrake turns itself on, automatically – whenever the shift lever is moved to Park. Or when you try to Reverse with the door open a crack.

Yes, really.

Speaking of stopping. . .

Automatic Stop/Start is another  “feature” I don’t think many of us actually asked for – but which is nonetheless becoming part of the new car standard equipment roster. It turns the engine off even though you prefer it to be running – one assumes, since you haven’t turned it off.

Or even arrived at your destination yet.

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