Saturday, 28 September 2013

VW's electronic nannying makes me want to rage against the machine

IT’S a debate that 21st century philosophers ought to be debating. Is it right to reprimanded by your car?

I was thinking this last weekend, when – having successfully navigated 65 miles across two different counties – the electronic brain of the Volkswagen Polo I’d borrowed decided to give me some help with parking. Help, incidentally, that I hadn’t asked it for.

“LOOK!” the digital readout on the dashboard screamed. “SAFE TO MOVE?”

The Polo might have gained a bit of girth over its 40 year career, admittedly, but it’s still what I’d call a small car. Even Maureen from Driving School could master it. Yet the Polo’s electronic brain, in its better wisdom, decided it needed to remind me anyway that I need to look before I back into a parking space.

It gets worse. Germany’s supermini of choice also decided that the last thing I needed while backing up a small hatchback was music distracting me from the job in hand, so it automatically turned the radio down and steadfastly refused to let me turn back up again.

Katy Perry’s roar, it insisted, would be a distant hum for the duration of the parking. Drivers with tasks as dangerous as a bay park deserve not the dulcet tones of Russell Brand’s ex-wife!

I got out of the Polo a bit peeved, wondering whether I’d somehow annoyed it earlier on with a fluffed gearchange or a cheeky overtake, and it’d decided I was an idiot and therefore needed all the help I could get. Despite it being a sturdily-built, family-friendly package that’s blessed with tidy handling and restrained good looks, my overall verdict on the Polo is that it’s never good for a car to be patronising.

True, drivers too stupid to put on their seatbelts deserve the book – and some safety beeps bonging out of the dashboard – thrown at them, and even I’ll grudgingly admit the high pitched whine almost every modern motor makes when you forget to turn the lights off has saved me the occasional flat battery. When I’m driving, however, I’m the boss and I’ll reverse however I choose to. If I prang an L-reg Fiesta in the process – and, in five years of driving, I’ve never yet come close – then that’s my lookout.

I suspect that, hundreds of miles away, in a bunker in deepest Wolfsburg, some VW engineers decided to instil the Polo with its annoying Nanny State tendencies in a bid to avoid Polo owners going to Claims Direct in about ten years’ time because they’ve reversed into pedestrians. Maybe it’ll become compulsory in the distant future, and for someone who takes pride in how they drive, that worries me.

Given the choice between cars which constantly tell you what to do, and Katy Perry, I know which I’d pick.

1 comment:

  1. It's here that vw readout main agent technicians learn about the nuances of looking after electric cars. Handily, that means an e-up! or two up on a ramp and a good view of the bottom of the car.