Opinion Column

New car complications

By Kent Walton, Special to The Enterprise-Bulletin

We were sitting around chatting with some neighbours when the topic of new cars came up. A few had purchased new vehicles over the past year. The cars were different manufacturers but what they had in common was the myriad of gadgets now included in vehicles.

My personal vehicle is a 2010 and very out of date. It’s like owning a computer that’s seven years old. Computers are outdated before you get them home and it appears autos are falling into that same ilk.

Judy has a new car this year since the lease had run out on her little orange beastie. She is now driving a new Prius Hybrid that includes almost every gadget available except a trunk release and a spare tire.

It has so many sensors that I can’t interpret all the sounds and signals it comes up with while we drive. Talk about distracted driving.

The first time I had the privilege of driving her car, I was completely taken aback by all the bells and whistles. I turned on the engine. A screen told me that the motor was running. At the same time messages popped up telling me that I was surrounded by items I might hit. I’m in a garage, so what would you expect?

Putting the car into reverse, a beeper warned everyone that I was backing up. As I passed my own car in the driveway, new lights appeared to tell me that there was a car in my line of fire. Not exactly, but the side view mirror was flashing the message there was another car beside me.

I made it to the road, almost, when another sound and more flashing lights announced that there was a car passing behind me heading down the street. Finally, I actually made it to the street. Then heading down the county line, there was more beeping and flashing. Judy informed me that I had strayed over the center lane marker. A new kind of backseat driver had entered my life. The car also beeped if you stray too far to the right. An electronic nagger.

I was getting a headache and I hadn’t even made it to town.

Later I was on Highway 400 heading to Toronto so I put the car on cruise control. I set it for 100 kilometres per hour but it wouldn’t go over 85. I thought something was wrong when the information screen told me I was too close to the vehicle in front so automatically it slowed me down to a safer speed.

It’s been almost six months since Judy purchased her new vehicle and we are still finding things about this car that simply make me shake my head. I think it’s even equipped to park itself but we aren’t feeling comfortable enough to actually try it.

We were telling these anecdotes to our neighbours when we realized that we weren’t alone in our dilemma. Two others piped up that they too were going batty over the noises and messages. The car was controlling their lives.

After great discussion, we decided that we should take our auto manuals, our mates and our vehicles over to an empty parking lot after hours where we can work our way through all the buttons and levers that are a part of our new vehicles.

So if you see a group of new cars moving about an empty parking lot after store closing time, it will be the Waltons and neighbours making their way through the new auto manuals trying to regain control of their cars.

Appreciating the simplicity of my old vehicle, Kent Walton can be reached at ebreflections@rogers.com. 

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