Cars are, essentially, the biggest tech toy you’ll own. As cars have evolved, engineers at leading automakers around the world have continued to cram more and more technology into them. And while a lot of the technology is useful and cool, plenty of it over the years has not been too helpful. In fact, a lot of the features in cars over the years can be considered unnecessary and downright annoying. Heck, a lot of the technology in cars has been placed there simply because engineers could squeeze it into the vehicle and manufacturers could then charge a premium for it. Like a Swiss Army knife, there are lots of gadgets in cars that people just never use. Here is a list of 10 of the most useless features that have been added to cars over the years.
10. Interlocked Seat Belts
No part of a car has been subjected to more useless innovations than the seat belt. 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, and it 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 in the 1970s developed interlocked seat belts that 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 became law in many parts of the U.S. in the early 1970s. However, once law enforcement officers and state legislators realized that many people just buckled the driver’s seat belt, left it buckled, and then sat on top of it, these laws were revoked and interlocked seat belts quietly disappeared from the marketplace.
9. Motorized Rear View Mirrors
Some things in a car should 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 right hand is not that onerous a task and it is the most efficient way to quickly get the mirror the way you like it. This should be done before a car is even started. Yet in the 1990s, many automakers introduced motorized rear view mirrors that people could fiddle with and fix using the touch of a button. Mercedes-Benz led the way with this tech innovation in 1994 and several other carmakers followed. And it seemed like a sound concept since motorized side view mirrors worked great and became extremely popular. But side view mirrors are outside the car and it can be extremely difficult to stick a hand outside and adjust when speeding down a highway. Never mind the fact that the driver cannot even reach the side view mirror on the passenger side of the car. Motorizing side view mirrors was a great advancement. Rear view mirrors, on the other hand, are inside the car and within easy reach. And it proved to be a hell of a lot easier and faster for people to adjust the rear view mirror with their hand rather than mess around with a button that had the rear view mirror jerking from side-to-side and up and down.
8. Moisture Sensing Windshield Wipers
Windshield wipers can be frustrating at the best of times. Adjusting the speed and intervals of the wiper blades so that they clean the windshield at the appropriate time can seem like a part-time job. And getting the wiper blades just right when it is misting or lightly sprinkling out can be super aggravating. So, it seemed like a great idea to create completely automated windshield wipers that sense moisture in the air and come on when it rains, adjusts their speed automatically based on how hard it is raining. The only problem was that the sensors had a hard time adjusting to rain that was not consistent or intermittent. During a downpour, the automated wipers worked great. But when the rain let up and then started to get heavy again, the wiper blades could not adjust properly. This made moisture sensing windshield wiper blades beyond annoying. 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 switch on the steering column and did away with the moisture sensing wiper systems.
7. Electronic Parking Brakes
Electronic parking brakes are not necessarily a bad idea. Given that most people don’t use their parking brake, it makes 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 serves a valuable role in holding a car’s transmission in place when it is 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’s just that electronic parking brakes aren’t that necessary. They also don’t enable people to use the parking brake in an emergency, such as when they need to stop on a dime or avoid an accident. For these reasons, electronic parking brakes have not caught on more widely among car makers worldwide.
6. Paddle Shifters
Paddle shifters were used in automatic transmission cars as a compromise that would give people the feeling of manually shifting gears in the car without having to use a clutch and grinding the gears. The paddle was placed on the steering column within easy reach and people could simply flick it to shift gears. The only problem was that this technology was completely unnecessary in an automatic transmission car that shifts gears all by itself. And, people had to hit the paddle shifter at the perfect moment or the car would just ignore the manual command from the driver. In the end, it was reinforced that people who want to drive an automatic car don’t want to shift gears. And people who do want to shift gears themselves buy a manual transmission car. Paddle shifters not necessary.
5. Motorized Seat Belts
Good grief. How lazy have people gotten when they need to have their seat belt buckled electronically for them? While motorized seat belts were considered a cool feature in the early 1980s when first introduced, people quickly realized that they were ridiculously slow and cumbersome. Today, motorized seat belts are often featured in comedy movies as a sight gag where a person 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. Drivers and car manufacturers quickly realized that it is a lot faster for people to just pull their seat belts out and fasten them in place themselves. Plus, many motorized seat belts were prone to glitches that made it impossible for them to even fasten in place.
4. Dynamic Steering
The concept of dynamic steering seems dangerous to us. A popular feature in BMWs, it allows drivers to adjust the tension on the steering wheel—making it harder to steer in the “sport” mode and easier to steer in the “comfort” mode. Just as you can adjust the feeling of steering a car on some video games, you can do the same in real life with dynamic steering. But is this really safe? On some cars, the dynamic steering setting also changes as you drive forcing the driver to make adjustments as they’re operating the vehicle. Again, is this a safety concern? Wouldn’t it be best to just provide people with one steering setting that is somewhere in the middle? This feature just opens up so many questions. Starting with “Why?”
3. Automatic Car Doors
Automatic trunks—great. Automatic car doors—completely useless. An automatic tailgate or trunk is fantastic for when you have your hands full. Why didn’t someone think of that innovation sooner? It’s so convenient. But driver and passenger car doors that open automatically represent the height of human laziness. An innovation that is so unnecessary it is almost embarrassing. That people no longer feel they should use the door handle to open the car door themselves is a sad commentary on our society. That a car owner would pay additional money for this feature is even sadder. Again, just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. Automatic doors should not exist.
It’s not that we hate sunroofs. They’re a nice enough feature, we suppose. It’s just that they’re not necessary. Sunroofs are for people who can’t afford a convertible. They’re like a half measure. And when the sun is shining and its warm outside, wouldn’t you just as soon roll down the windows to let the sun and wind in the car? 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 when it rains outside. If you want a convertible, go ahead and buy one. Buy it second hand if need be. But sunroofs really serve no purpose. They certainly aren’t worth shelling out hundreds of extra dollars for—especially if you live in a cold, northern climate and will only get to use the sunroof for a few months each year.
1. Economically Driving Warning Light
You never want to see any light on your dashboard come on. But if something does light up on your dash, you at least want it to be important and meaningful. This is not the case with the “eco” light as it is known. This is a light that comes on the dash to tell people they are not driving economically enough and might be wasting gas. Thanks, dashboard. Thanks a lot. I’ll file that away with all the other useless information I received today. This feature was added to pacify the environmental lobby and give the impression that automakers were doing all they could to help make the world a little greener. What they did end up doing was piss people off with a feature that is little more than political posturing and has not real impact on how the car is performing or the safety of the vehicle. Waste of time.