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!
. . .
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