Reader Question: Tech for its Own Sake?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Richard asks: Your recent column reminded me of something that happened – either because I no longer have a key but a button or because I have a Prius. Taking family to ride an airboat, which is very noisy, I parked the car, exited, and tried to lock it (very noisy outside at that time as the airboat was just coming in prior to our opportunity to board). Car would not lock for some reason, but I needed to hustle, so I left it unlocked. About an hour or so later when I returned, discovered the engine/system was still running (AC was fine). Being a hybrid engine, the gas fuel consumption was small since it only ran to recharge the main battery which was driving the AC. Fortunately, I cannot lock the door if leave the key in the car or leave the engine running, but unfortunately, I cannot always tell when the “system” is on.

My reply: I’m glad it was still there when you got back!

Another issue with these keyless/pushbutton systems is theft. Made easy by the car having been left inadvertently unlocked and on.

I try not to be a Luddite – someone who reflexively opposes technology per se. That would be stupid. But technology for its own sake is another matter. If a system or way of doing things works efficiently, reliably and inexpensively I don’t understand why anyone would want to replace it with something that doesn’t offer meaningful advantages in those areas – and which also creates problems which did not exist with the old system or way of doing things – just because it’s “new.”

Pushbutton/keyless ignition strikes me as a good example of technology for its own sake.

There is a slight convenience to be gained. Just push a button and no having to fish around in your pocket for the key. But in exchange, the cost of the “key” has increased by at least 10 times and you now have to be more attentive to whether the ignition is in fact off.

Also, the car is made more vulnerable to theft, as in your situation described above.

As I wrote in the original article, I believe gadgets such as this are becoming the Main Attraction when it comes to new cars because there’s no longer much more room for meaningful improvement in areas such as power/performance/reliability/durability and so on.

It’s a given that any new car is going to start immediately, will not stall when you pull into traffic. This goes without saying. Only a small handful are meaningfully underpowered. Most have more power than most people will ever be able to make much use of in real-world driving.

AC is a given. A four speaker stereo at the very least. Almost all the power conveniences which used to distinguish a luxury or at least “loaded” car from a basic car are now part of the expected standard equipment package in pretty much every new car.

So we get larger touchscreens and LED mood lighting and keyless/pushbutton ignition to dazzle up the car.

Thing is, most new cars now have all that stuff, too.

I wonder what they’ll think up next!

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Some friends were virtue signally several years ago and they bought Priu. Both had teacher wives and one man was a teacher too.

    I merely mentioned they were so butt ugly I could never drive one regardless. I was jumped on and called every name in the world because of my remark. I guess beauty isn’t in the eye of the beholder but in virtue signalling. So a couple years rock along and the one teacher who drove one mile to work was happy, The other with two children(nearly grown)and her husband were gaga over theirs…..till they made a trip to Colorado from Texas. There was a lot of stuff they wanted to buy but no place to put it. Then they drove it to Dallas and got into that infamous hail storm there a few years ago that knocked out everything but the sheetmetal and to be honest, it would have been much better if it had punched holes in it. After it was fixed I said “Now’s the time yall can buy a diesel VW, something with long legs for traveling the panhandle and gets great mileage with plenty of room”. Naw, they were committed(I would have had them committed)to rebuilding the Priu.

    Another year rolls by and all of a sudden I notice neither of them had those “great” cars and nary a word was ever said about trading or what they now have. It was along about that time I told the panhandle family it would have been a good thing for vacation of that Chevy pickup had an X or Crew cab. No reply. They knew it was true. They could have even brought back some craft beer and an Indian blanket or 3. No mention by either about the end of the Priu. I know the single school teacher couple has another new X cab Toy.

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