Cars are, essentially, the biggest tech toy you’ll own. As vehicles have evolved, engineers at leading automakers have continued to cram more and more tech into them. While a lot of the features are useful (or at least kind of neat), plenty of them weren’t exactly home runs. In fact, a lot of new car features over the years can be considered unnecessary and downright annoying.
It feels like a lot of car technology was added simply to pad the bottom line. If engineers could squeeze it into the vehicle, then manufacturers could then charge a premium for it. Like a Swiss Army knife, there are lots of gadgets in cars that we just never use. Here is a list of ten of the most useless and annoying features that have been added to cars over the years.
Interlocked Seat Belts
No part of a car has been subjected to more useless innovations than the seat belt. In fact, this isn’t the last time we’re going to talk about them. Seat belts have basically served the same purpose since they were first added to cars in the 1950s. However, most laws making wearing seat belts mandatory didn’t come into effect until the 1970s and 1980s. It actually took a long time for many motorists to accept that they had to wear a seat belt while driving.
To help influence driver behavior, automakers developed interlocked seat belts in 1970s. They required the driver’s seat belt to be locked into place before the car would start. No seat belt, no car starting. Interlocked seat belts actually became law in many parts of the U.S. in the early 1970s. However, police officers (and state legislators) soon realized that many people just buckled the belt and then sat on top of it. These laws were quickly revoked. Interlocked seat belts quietly disappeared from the marketplace. Their spirit lives on, though, in the form of those annoying chirps your car gives out if you forget to buckle up.
Motorized Rear View Mirrors
Some things in your car should just remain manually controlled. Not everything needs to be motorized just because it can be. This is especially true of the rear view mirror.
Adjusting the rear view mirror with your hand isn’t exactly an onerous task. In fact, it’s the most efficient way to quickly get the mirror the way you like it. It’s easy to do on the fly, but should really be done before your car is even started.
However, many automakers introduced motorized rear view mirrors in 1990s. You could fiddle with their exact location using the touch of a button. Mercedes-Benz led the way with this tech innovation in 1994 and several other carmakers followed. At first, it seemed like a sound concept. After all, motorized side view mirrors worked great. Drivers loved them and most models still have them today.
Obviously the big difference is that side view mirrors are outside the car. It was never really practical to roll down your window to adjust your mirror. Not to mention that the driver wouldn’t even be able to reach the passenger side mirror. Motorizing those was a great piece of engineering.
The rear view mirror, though? Not so much. They are inside and within easy reach. It proved to be much easier and faster to just adjust the rear view mirror by hand. Who wants to mess around with a button or joystick, which can break or malfunction? Sometimes the simplest solution remains the best solution.
Moisture Sensing Windshield Wipers
Windshield wipers can be frustrating at the best of times. Adjusting the intervals of the blades to the appropriate timing can seem like a part-time job. Plus it hardly ever rains at a consistent pace. One minute it’s coming down in sheets. Five minutes later, it’s been reduced to a light sprinkle. You’re constantly fiddling with the wiper knob, trying to find the perfect setting.
So, it seemed like a great idea to completely automate the process. Automakers developed wipers that sense moisture and just come on when it rains. They even attempt to adjust their speed automatically, based on how hard the water is coming down. Unfortunately, the computers struggled to keep up during quickly changing weather or intermittent rainfall. During a downpour, they worked fine.
However, when the rain comes and goes, the wiper blades just don’t adjust properly. In the end, moisture sensing windshield wiper blades are beyond annoying. Even worse, it was extremely difficult to override the automated system once it started. In the end, most automakers opted to develop a more responsive intermittent windshield wiper blade control, and did away with the moisture sensing wiper systems.
Electronic Parking Brakes
Electronic parking brakes were not necessarily a bad idea. Given that most people don’t use their parking brake at all, it made sense to develop a parking brake that comes on automatically when the car is placed in “park” and the engine is turned off. The parking brake actually serves a valuable role in holding a car’s transmission in place when it’s parked.
Many luxury car makers such as Jaguar, BMW, Audi, and Bentley offer electronic parking brakes in their highest end, most tricked out vehicles. It may sound nice, but electronic parking brakes just aren’t that necessary. They also don’t allow you to use the parking brake in an emergency, like if you need to stop on a dime or avoid an accident. For these reasons, electronic parking brakes haven’t really caught on.
Paddle shifters were used in automatic transmission cars, mostly as a compromise. The idea is that they would give drivers the feeling of manually shifting gears without having to use a clutch or grinding the gears. The paddles were placed on the steering column within easy reach. You could simply flick it to shift gears.
The problem with this technology was that it was completely useless. Adding paddle shifters to an automatic car was simply redundant. The car would still switch gears by itself if the driver forgot to hit the paddle. The car would also ignore the paddles if the driver tried to switch too early. So what’s the point, really?
We get it. The coolest F1 race cars all have paddle shifters, so it’s super cool! No one is saying you can’t buy a manual transmission vehicle and get that full-featured driving experience. Yes, switching gears for real with a stickshift or paddles can be a lot of fun. However, you’re not fooling anyone by driving an automatic with paddle shifters. Except maybe yourself. And that’s just sad.
Motorized Seat Belts
Good grief! How lazy have we gotten we need our seat belts buckled electronically? While motorized seat belts were considered a cool feature when first introduced in the 80s, drivers quickly realized that they were ridiculously slow and cumbersome. Today, motorized seat belts are often featured in comedy movies as a sight gag. You know, the scene where a character in a hurry has to sit and wait for their motorized seat belt to slowly crawl across their body and lock in place before they can take off in their car?
Both drivers and automakers quickly realized that it’s a lot faster to just pull fasten our seat belts ourselves. Plus, many motorized seat belts were prone to glitches that made it impossible for them to even fasten properly. Thankfully, this was a short-lived fad.
The concept of dynamic steering just seems dangerous to us. A popular feature in BMW models, it allows drivers to adjust the tension on the steering wheel. You can make it “harder” to steer in the Sport mode and easier to steer in the Comfort mode. Just as you can adjust the steering sensitivity in video games, you can adjust it in your real life vehicle. But is this really safe?
On some cars, the dynamic steering setting changes as you drive. That forces drivers to make adjustments as they’re operating the vehicle. Again, isn’t this a safety concern? Wouldn’t it be best to just make every model with a single steering setting that is somewhere in the middle? Your commute to work isn’t the Indy 500. There’s really no need for this, considering the potential downside of accidents caused by over- or under-steering.
Automatic Car Doors
Automatic trunks, liftgates, or tailgates are actually pretty good. However, automatic car doors are completely useless. An automatic tailgate is fantastic for when you have your hands full. Why didn’t someone think of that innovation sooner? It’s so convenient.
However, driver and passenger car doors that open automatically represent the height of human laziness. An innovation that is so unnecessary, it’s almost embarrassing. It’s a sad commentary on society that we no longer feel like we should use the handle to open the car door ourselves. It’s even worse when you consider that people actually pay extra this feature. Again, just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. Automatic doors should not exist. The one exception we will allow, though, is automatic sliding doors for minivans — because small kids are basically unreliable.
It’s not that we hate sunroofs. They’re a nice enough feature, we guess. It’s just that they’re not really necessary. Sunroofs are for people who can’t afford a convertible. They’re like a half measure. When the sun is shining and its warm outside, wouldn’t you just as soon roll down the windows to let that weather in? Do you really need the sun beating down on top of you? Plus, many sunroofs are known for letting in cold air in the winter and leaking water after a few years.
If you want a convertible, go ahead and buy one. Buy it second hand, if money is a concern. But sunroofs really serve no purpose. They certainly aren’t worth shelling extra dollars for —especially if you live in a cold, northern climate. You’ll only get to use the sunroof for a few months each year!
Eco Driving Warning Light
You never want to see any unexpected light pop up on your dashboard. However, if something does light up on your dash, you at least want it to be important and meaningful. The “Check Engine” light is an important indicator, for example. However, the “Eco Light” is not
The Eco Light comes on to tell you that you’re not driving economically enough. In fact, you might be wasting gas. Thanks, dashboard! Thanks a lot. I’ll just file that away with all the other useless information I received today!
This feature was added to pacify the environmental lobby. It give the impression that automakers were doing all they could to help make the world a little greener. However, all they managed to do was annoy drivers with a feature that was little more political posturing. The Eco Light has no real impact on how the car performs or the safety of the vehicle. What a waste of time.