Car Talk

Saturday 26 July 2014

Blog stuff: Cars have reached the pinnacle of driving, so what’s next?

Bob Flavin

Published 11/07/2014|10:46

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LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 9:  "The Boss"  a driver-less automobile is seen at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center January 9, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Using a combination of LIDAR, radar, vision and mapping GPS systems to see the world around it, the unmanned Chevrolet Tahoe used only electronics to successfully drive itself through a 60-mile urban course in November 2007 to win the prestigious U.S. Defense Department sponsored competition, DARPA Urban Challenge. The prototype vehicle recognizes road geometry and perceives other traffic and obstacles on the road.  CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology tradeshow, runs through tomorrow and features 2,700 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to more than 140,000 attendees.  (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 9: "The Boss" a driver-less automobile is seen at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center January 9, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Using a combination of LIDAR, radar, vision and mapping GPS systems to see the world around it, the unmanned Chevrolet Tahoe used only electronics to successfully drive itself through a 60-mile urban course in November 2007 to win the prestigious U.S. Defense Department sponsored competition, DARPA Urban Challenge. The prototype vehicle recognizes road geometry and perceives other traffic and obstacles on the road. CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology tradeshow, runs through tomorrow and features 2,700 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to more than 140,000 attendees. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

Why do we need so much touch-screen shiny stuff in cars, can't we just drive?

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You may have noticed that when you read an article about the latest car on the road there’s a big emphasis on the technology in the car, things like sat nav’s are old hat these day now the maps are 3D, touchscreens are the norm and cars can park themselves; but is there any driving left?

Currently there’s a good smattering of performance cars out there although most of them are very high-tech under the bonnet and it’s this electronic manager that keeps us from crashing on the first roundabout we meet.

So it goes these days, there’s acronyms abound in modern cars, ABS, TCT, EBD to name but three of the frankly hundreds of options on a car. It’s getting harder to detect when these systems are doing anything or you’re just handy behind the wheel.

Take for instance Audi quattro, this is a special kind of four-wheel-drive that Audi developed and used very successfully in Motorsport. You can have that system in a road going car and recently they’ve been offering a version of it in most of the model line-up.

The lower grade system is electronically controlled so that most of the time you are a two wheel drive until you lose grip and then the rear wheels are brought and you drive on. In daily commutes you won’t notice this happen; actually I didn’t notice it when I drove an S3 around Mondello at high speed setting a decent lap time too but that wasn’t really me setting the lap time; it was the car. I was just guiding the car from corner to corner as the little electronic box under the bonnet was sending the right amount of power to the wheels to keep me going where the steering wheel was pointing.

The same can be said for modern cars the steering, that’s mostly electronically controlled as is the accelerator pedal and yes, the gearbox.

So the end is in sight, this time that we are entering where the driver has little or no input, driving might become little more than play on your xbox.

There is some hope though, the mid-range sports cars are still stripped out and fun. Porsche, Alfa Romeo 4c even the Peugeot RCZ-R are all decent drives and make you feel that you’re in control. When it comes to the 4c that’s particularly true because there’s no power-steering, which means you can feel every little stone on the road.

I think we’ve reached the limit of what electronic aids can do to help you drive and I also think you should have to learn to drive in a basic car that has nothing but ABS because you’ll learn a lot about car control and the feeling of a car when driving.

So let’s get back to the basics of driving and give us something to get excited about other than putting an iPad into the dashboard.

Join the conversation on Twitter @indomotoring

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