Reader Question: What Are They Trying to Do?

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

Becky asks: Last November I rented a vehicle to drive to a burial ceremony about three states away. The rental agent provided a Jeep Cherokee. I have owned a Jeep Cherokee in the late 70s, along with two CJs and one Wrangler. What I got from this Jeep was a group of unpleasant surprises. Shortly after starting the trip, I noticed that the steering wheel and seat were getting hot. Could not find a switch on the dash assembly and activated the display on the dashboard center. After going through about two pages, a display came up showing the seat and steering wheel. I was finally able to interpret the what I saw and shut off the heaters. While driving through stop and go city traffic, I noticed the engine was shutting down. After I arrived at my destination, a friend of mine told me that this is the new normal in cars and was the only way to reach the advertised gas mileage. To be quite blunt about it, it was not a pleasant experience.

My newest car is a 2010 Honda CRV which has more gizmos than I really care to deal with.  What concerns me is that with all of these computer enhanced driving aids, what are the manufacturers trying to do?  I say that using the Boeing 737 fiasco where over 300 people died in the crash of two of those aircraft. In both cases, the pilots appeared to have no knowledge of the computer interplay with the aircraft flight control systems. I wonder when and if this will occur with automobiles.

I still have a Jeep CJ, and prefer driving that to any of the newest cars. And with Jeep going that way as well, I am waiting for the time that someone will be in some off-trail jaunt and find that an electronic relay will fail and they won’t be able to set the drive system into the mode needed. One thing about a manual shift, if the linkage breaks, you could still get to the transmission or transfer case to get into the mode needed.

My reply: I think what they are trying to do is:

One, increase their profits by adding features – especially electronic features – that don’t cost that much to install but do cost a great deal to service and replace. These costs also accelerate the retirement of vehicles that would otherwise last 15-20 years or longer  “nudging” people to buy a new car sooner.

Two, the electronics – especially all the “assistance” tech – is a way for the car companies to tout What’s New – because there’s not much else that’s new. Styling has been boxed in by regulations which have instilled a generic homogeneity of design and engines/mechanical things have been perfected to such a degree that for the most part, only slight tweaks here and there are doable – and they don’t do all that much to make a difference in terms of how the car drives, or how reliable it is, etc.

Finally, it’s a manifestation of the Control Psychosis which now addles the culture – especially corporate culture. It is no longer primarily about selling goods or services; it is about using goods and services to control people.

That’s my diagnosis, at any rate!

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

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