7 Car Technology Features We Hardly (If Ever) Use


Manufacturers constantly introduce new technologies to improve the user experiences of their products. However, some in-car features seem of little use to consumers and, therefore, they're hardly ever put to use (outside of vehicle showrooms, anyway). Here are just 7 examples... 

There have been some great in-car innovations and inventions over the years. Some of the best are simple things, such as Bluetooth hands-free telephony and audio streaming and USB connections to play media files from flash drives (colloquially known as USB sticks) and music devices, or charge/project the screen of your smartphone. Then there are the convenience features, such as automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and main-beam assist – simple functions that require you to push a button once (to activate them) and then forget about it.

Here are 7 features that are simply frivolous and gimmicky, in our opinion. Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with me...

1. SD Card slot

How SD slots ever found their way into cars is beyond me. How many people do you know who store their music files on a full-size SD card? Not even photographers, who are the prime purchasers of SD cards are so inclined. Audi and Volkswagen must have been convinced by SD cards by someone with nefarious intentions. Until recently, SD slots were the only accepted mass storage media input in Volkswagen Group's cars (USB adapters used to be extra cost options). In the Eighties, VHS overtook Betamax as the dominant home video format, the CD player superseded the once ubiquitous Cassette Deck and its safe to assert that USB is the most popular format for in-car media. Sorry SD, but USB won... 

2. Voice control

Voice control has to be one of the most frustrating functions on modern cars. The systems have improved vastly over the years, but, for the most part, are still mostly ineffective. Try asking your navigation to direct you to Inkanyezi Close, Umhlanga. Even trying to ask it to phone someone in your phonebook tests your patience. Voice control always seems to take longer to correctly interpret what you said than the time it would take for you/your front passenger to physically select the specific requirement from the infotainment system's menu.

3. Synthesised exhaust notes

If you can’t make an exhaust sound awesome then don’t pump fake noise through the speakers into the cabin. The F10-generation BMW M5, powered by a twin-turbocharged 4,4-litre V8, was the most infamous adopter of this technique and, in my opinion, it was contrary to the visceral driving experience that a super sedan like the M5 is supposed to be about. I don't mean to pick on BMW, though, because exhaust note synthesiser technology was widely adopted. Several manufacturers have since introduced exhaust flaps that allow for a bit more noise to escape from the pipes when required. Hopefully, that’s the end of that, because some performance cars' engine notes sounded particularly "fashioned" for a while.

4. Sport gauges

They're gimmicks: all of them, even the lap timer. You know how much power and torque your car has when you bought it, why do you need some dials to show you that exact detail? G-metres just show lots of little dots and are not much to brag about. In a road car, if you’re pulling more than 2G, there won't be time to look at a screen!. Lap timers are based on your ability to press a button at the exact moment you cross the start/finish line, which any racer worth his salt will tell you is inaccurate. Rather get a GPS lap timer for your phone instead.

5. Text message reader

Modern infotainment systems, once you've connected your phone to them, will often attempt to read your messages for you. To be honest, the only institutions that send text messages these days are banks, Home Affairs and companies that push (usually unsolicited) product offers. Everyone else uses Whatsapp or a similar chat program. All a text reader essentially does is read out your bank account number and bank balance to whoever is in the car at the time. If it could read Whatsapps on the other hand, that may be far more useful.

6. Web browsers

This is almost self-explanatory. Nothing is worse than trying to browse the internet on an infotainment system. It’s the least user-friendly internet experience you’ll ever have, especially if you don’t have a touchscreen. Also, we can’t really think of why you would need to browse the internet while you're driving; it takes too much of your focus away from the road, doesn't it? Moreover, at least one of your passengers should know how to google something they need to know by using the keyboard interface on their smartphones. If not, stop the car and DIY.

7. Gesture control

Gesture control was a really cool feature when we first played with it in the BMW 7 Series. In application, it’s not the easiest function to operate. The suggested hand movements only have the prescribed effect half the time and if you happen to be having a conversation with someone in the car and move your arms about, you inevitably increase the volume on the radio or zoom in on your navigation map. Again, it's a more difficult solution to a task that can be easily completed by thumbing a steering wheel control or turning a knob on the fascia.

Related content: 

BMW 7 Series: A Tech Showcase [with Video]
Why the tech in your next car matters
Android and Apple versus car infotainment systems
New Car Technologies Showcase: More integration, personalisation