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Thread: Department of Annoying Technology

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Department of Annoying Technology

    This just in - from the Department of Annoying Technology:

    * Nissan "EcoPedal" -

    Imagine an accelerator that doesn't want you to and you will understand the essence of Nissan's new gizmo. Designed to "assist drivers to become more fuel-efficient," in the words of Nissan PR, the system is designed to increase resistance on the gas pedal - and even push back against your foot - if the car's computer thinks you're trying to "using more fuel than required." No joke. (Here's a graphic of the system: http://www.nissannews.com/newsrelease.do?id=542 ).

    Right now, the system's in the demo phase but Nissan says it hopes to bring it to market in 2009, which of course is a few weeks from now. Crikey.

    The automaker says the system will be either optional or will be set up so that the owner/driver can turn it off at will. But if this isn't the answer to the question one asked, what is? More ominously, this technology could be yet another brick in the wall of the speeding-free future lusted after in certain quarters. Onboard receivers/transmitters could communicate with roadside "smart" speed limit signs, telling your car's computer thus fast - and no faster.

    And it's just around the corner. Which brings us to... .

    * BMW iSpeed -

    Technically, BMW hasn't given its new gadget a name yet, but iSpeed seems appropriate - except for the fact that it is intended to accomplish precisely the opposite; that is, to keep you from speeding.

    The new-generation 7 Series ultra luxury sedan, which comes out in 2009, will be equipped with scanners capable of reading speed limit signs and curtly informing the driver when he's going faster. It is capable of reading both static signs and those changeable electronic displays used in some areas.

    Unlike the heavy-handed (or footed) Nissan system, BMW's is passive in that it does not actually attempt to impose its will on the driver. Yet. That's one small blessing. Also, that - for the moment - it will be Euro-only deal. Apparently, American road signage is still too confusing a mishmash to be easily reconciled with BMW's electronics. So only European versions of the new 7 Series will feature the system.

    But, still.

    As Dennis Miller likes to say, I don't want to go off on rant here but is all this really necessary - or even remotely desirable?

    It appears the automakers are working feverishly hard to take the driver entirely out of the equation. Or at least, to throttle him so effectively that to call him a "driver" is to abuse the language. I rage against this process. "safety" and "efficiency" are not the main reasons for getting behind the wheel of an automobile. At least, they aren't for me.

    I get in a car both to get somewhere and to drive - two related but not identical things. It is the whole point, the entire reason, for any car that's more than just a simple conveyance.

    What kind of sick Catch 22 is it that Nissan - a company that builds brilliant machinery like the 350Z - is also working hard to make it virtually impossible to make use of such machinery? Why even bother with it? Maybe Nissan ought to be building nothing but an endless production line of anodyne little boxes, differing only in color and whether this one has a CD player and that one a sunroof. Qualudes in the glovebox could be optional.

    And BMW?

    Whatever happened to "Ultimate Driving Machines"? The engines are still magnificent, the steering and suspensions a near-perfect ying-yang of reflex and compliance. Yet lately there's so much flapdoodle to fight that it's hardly worth the effort. From iDrive to iSpeed, it's all getting to be a bit too much. I find myself reminiscing about older, less encumbered BMWs from the days when the only "controls" facing the driver were a steering wheel and a stick shift. If you needed to change the radio, you turned a knob. Directing the car's progress was entirely up to you. It was what made it all worth doing.

    Maybe the automakers have run out of genuinely useful things to improve. The internal combustion engine has reached its zenith after 100-plus years of continual refinement. Suspension and tire and braking technology is now capable of only minor, incremental improvement. The Great Leaps Forward of 20 odd years ago (for example, from disc/drum brakes to four-wheel-discs to four-wheel-discs with ABS) are pretty much done with. How much bigger/wider can wheels get? And so on.

    This leaves idle hands - and PR departments desperate to justify this year's "latest thing." Since the basic technology of the car, itself, is at or very near perfection, they are resorting to the undiscovered country of vehicular big brotherism. Cars were virtually free of interference until, oh, 15 or 20 years ago. So there is lots yet to do.

    And they're just getting started... .

  2. #2
    Unbelieveable. When it comes down to hurtling a 2-ton piece of metal (and cheap plastic) down a shared road, there is simply no substitute for the brain of the driver.

    Any device or concept which significantly affects a driver's ability to complete a safe (and legal) pass on a two-lane road, or even a passing lane manuver on a freeway, holding up other passing traffic, is nothing but a recipe for disaster.

    I remember when I took my Tennessee written driver's test in 1984 (I had just moved back to TN from Arkansas), we were ENCOURAGED to exceed the speed limit, especially on freeways, to get past the vehicle you were passing, to promote proper traffic flow. However (and I still remember to this day) the following question on my test:

    You have just been in a vicious argument and you are getting into your car, preparing to drive. What should you do?

    A) Get on a freeway and drive very fast
    B) Get in your car and turn the radio up REAL loud
    C) Try to calm down before driving

    I ALMOST chose "A" just for fun. The point of all of this is that if the Feds want to mandate how we drive again, let's get them to mandate an 85th Percentile rule nationwide. Otherwise, get Washington the hell out of the way. The feds (and many of the states, for that matter) have abrogated their responsibilities to regulate, monitor, adjust and improve ACTUAL traffic flow. As to the states, it's just too damn easy to get a driver's license (even for illegal aliens). And if you think something as "silly" as speed limits are not a political football, look at Oklahoma, for example. There, the main freeways are posted at 70, but you can pay tolls on the Turnpike and--guess what--you get to drive 75.

    I stand by my idea that if southern and western states refuse to capitulate to a new NMSL, it will hopefully go away. Any new NMSL will have to be fought at the state house level. State by state. We need to get ready. The automakers, to their benefit, are doing some innovative things re: increasing bhp with smaller, more efficient, less polluting engines. However, now that we have to pull money out of our own pockets, as taxpayers, to keep them afloat (when they have screwed me several times on trade-ins and finance deals), they will be quickly bending over to do whatever people like Barbara Boxer and Al Gore want. They're already starting.

    Hawg
    Last edited by hwyhawg; 12-09-2008 at 03:03 PM. Reason: wasn't finished

  3. #3

    PS

    Eric,

    As to all this new, restrictive technology, I'm reminded of something I witnessed in my childhood. When I was 10 years old, my mom, dad and I went car shopping. We always bought station wagons, and we found a brand new 1976 Pontiac Grand Safari on the lot. I fell in love with it and talked dad (with mom's help) into buying it. I remember the sticker price was around $7,200.00, which dad thought was astronomical, but he deferred.

    Shortly after buying it, in 1977, we took a trip to Florida. Somewhere in South Mississippi, the car of my dreams, with a 455 under the hood, almost totally lost power. We pulled into a Pontiac dealership in Gulfport. The technician got in the car to ride and see what the problem was. We didn't even have to go anywhere. When he got inside, he heard the "whistle" noise and immediately diagnosed the problem: a collapsed cataletic (sp?) converter. He gave us two options: we could stay a couple of nights and wait on a new, ordered one to come in (at great expense), or he would be willing to just cut the damn thing out and weld in a straight pipe. If we went for the straight pipe, we had to promise the guy we'd never tell who did the work if we got caught.

    We violated Federal law and opted for the straight pipe. That car was sold by my brother in the late 1980's with that old 455 humming like a Singer sewing machine after well over 200,000 miles. It didn't even burn or leak oil.

    So much for automakers throwing quick, bizarre and ill-considered attempts to reduce emissions and/or mitigate performance using hastily conceived technological "innovations". Honestly, Eric and friends, anything these idiots force on us will and can be circumvented. Yeah, you'll have to say goodbye to your warranty, but people will take the chance.

    Hawg

  4. #4
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Yeah - and it's probably gonna continue in this direction. It's the trend.

    But, so long as it's still legal to drive an older car, you'll always be able to opt out of this BS.

    I doubt I will ever buy a new car.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwyhawg View Post
    Eric,

    As to all this new, restrictive technology, I'm reminded of something I witnessed in my childhood. When I was 10 years old, my mom, dad and I went car shopping. We always bought station wagons, and we found a brand new 1976 Pontiac Grand Safari on the lot. I fell in love with it and talked dad (with mom's help) into buying it. I remember the sticker price was around $7,200.00, which dad thought was astronomical, but he deferred.

    Shortly after buying it, in 1977, we took a trip to Florida. Somewhere in South Mississippi, the car of my dreams, with a 455 under the hood, almost totally lost power. We pulled into a Pontiac dealership in Gulfport. The technician got in the car to ride and see what the problem was. We didn't even have to go anywhere. When he got inside, he heard the "whistle" noise and immediately diagnosed the problem: a collapsed cataletic (sp?) converter. He gave us two options: we could stay a couple of nights and wait on a new, ordered one to come in (at great expense), or he would be willing to just cut the damn thing out and weld in a straight pipe. If we went for the straight pipe, we had to promise the guy we'd never tell who did the work if we got caught.

    We violated Federal law and opted for the straight pipe. That car was sold by my brother in the late 1980's with that old 455 humming like a Singer sewing machine after well over 200,000 miles. It didn't even burn or leak oil.

    So much for automakers throwing quick, bizarre and ill-considered attempts to reduce emissions and/or mitigate performance using hastily conceived technological "innovations". Honestly, Eric and friends, anything these idiots force on us will and can be circumvented. Yeah, you'll have to say goodbye to your warranty, but people will take the chance.

    Hawg
    What a great car!

    I remember the '76 Poncho wagon very well myself.

    And I also remember what a huge improvement it made to cut off the catalytic converter - which, as you know, was a poorly conceived POS device (especially the early GM "pellet" styles such as the one your '76 had) that really screwed up the performance of the cars. Today's cats are much better (virtually all of them are the "monolith" type and flow much more efficiently) and most V-8 cars have at least two converters instead of corking the engine into a single exhaust with just one very inefficient converter.

    But still.

    If we had been able to manage our borders - and keep the population stable at around 200 million (or less) we would probably never have had to bother with them at all.

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