Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Mark writes: I was just reading your piece about various annoying nanny safety features in new cars, such as lane keep assist. I was wondering if you’ve heard of a feature I first encountered last week in a rental Chrysler 300. I noticed that whenever I would put the car in reverse, the drivers side mirror would rotate down, as if to prevent the driver from using it while backing. The center and passenger-side rear view mirrors were not affected. Putting the car in drive would restore the mirror to its original position. It seemed so weird to me I was wondering if it was an intentional safety feature or just a quirky malfunction.
My reply: Actually, those mirrors are working correctly – and it’s a common feature in new cars. The idea is to give you a better view of the curb area along the side of the car as you back-up, but in my experience they can reduce your view because proper mirror adjustment is specific to the individual behind the wheel and the programmed movement cannot be other than one-size-fits-all.
But I’m more annoyed by the peremptory aspect of this and similar stuff. Meaning, if I want the mirror (or anything else) to do something, I’ll do it myself – when I decide to. The nanny aspect of these mirrors is their peremptoriness and presumption. I’m not opposed to such equipment for those who want it, but I wish it were all optional and thus avoidable.
Finally, there’s the reasonable – to me – objection that here we have one more example of something very simple made complex; something easy and inexpensive to repair has been made difficult and costly to fix. Instead of a simple cable mechanism, an electric motor and switches – each probably not cheap and very likely to not last the life of the vehicle.
But these gadgets appeal to lots of people, apparently – and they do help justify the titanic cost of new cars!
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