It’s no secret that cars have evolved more in the past 15 years than they had in the previous 30. More efficient gas engines, hybrid and electric powertrains, and of course, a new wave of technology have made cars faster, safer, and easier to drive than ever before. Gone are the days when a full sunroof, cruise control, and a CD player graced the top of the options list. Cars are getting more advanced, smarter, and more connected with each passing year, and by and large, this is a great thing.
But the rollout of new technology always means hiccups, and in terms of convenience, new cars have plenty of them. Automakers are stuffing cars to the gills with safety, technology, or performance packages, and while there’s a lot to love, there are also plenty that we can’t stand.
We know it may sound counterintuitive, but when shopping for your next car, it might benefit you to know which new features are the most obnoxious, and see if you can get a car without them. While the more the merrier is conventional wisdom when it comes to options in your new car, we think you’ll be happier without these 10.
1. Auto start/stop
In theory this is a pretty good idea: Turning off your car during prolonged traffic stops does eliminate unnecessary idling. But when in stop and go traffic, or just cruising around downtown, this fuel saving switch can turn into Chinese water torture, as the vehicle starts and stops itself at a moment’s notice. Yes, it can make a difference at the pump, but we don’t like the idea of subjecting one’s starter and battery to unnecessary wear and tear dozens of times a day.
2. Auto-dimming/brightening head lights
Another good idea that doesn’t quite work out in reality. Designed to eliminate the risk of blinding oncoming traffic when one’s high beams are on and doubling as an added safety precaution when driving on dimly lit roads, light-detecting sensors work tirelessly to determine when extra illumination is mandatory. Unfortunately, in practice automatic high beams aren’t all that reliable, as everything from bright reflective road signs to LED-lit crosswalks can cause the systems to overreact.
3. Tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS)
One of the silliest mandates in the history of automotive regulation, Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) are designed to tell you when your tires are getting low on air, which is becoming redundant next to newer digital displays that give real-time read outs on each tire. So if it suddenly gets chilly out and you lose a few PSI, most systems will overreact and drive you up the wall with warnings. Low tire pressure is typically pretty easy to assess and correct, so heaven help you if that pricey sensor detaches or starts malfunctioning while driving.
4. Automatic braking
In order to prevent split second accidents, many automakers have resorted to outfitting their vehicles with forward collision warnings and automatic braking. While it’s a great idea, the latter can be a startling and potentially dangerous feature when a harmless obstruction strikes the sensory system the wrong way. Imagine the chaos that would ensue when a lone plastic bag flies in front of you and triggers your car’s auto stop function while going 70 down the interstate, causing all four wheels to lock up.
5. Haptic interfaces
This is a feature that automakers are finally beginning to move away from, if slowly. Infotainment screens that require touching a mouse pad or a pressure sensitive bobble can be more annoying and gimmicky than useful, as they often end up causing more headaches than they’re worth. Overly sensitive and generally unintuitive, these bizarre forms of navigation are further proof that a touch screen or rotating command knob is all that you really need these days.
6. Semi-autonomous driving systems
Make no mistake, autonomous driving systems are the way of the future, but the tech just isn’t there yet. Current offerings from Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and Tesla can be brilliant at times, maintaining your speed, keeping you in your lane, and applying the brakes when necessary. But they can also be frustratingly intrusive to the point where they feel like they’re overriding your inputs, which as a driver, are pretty important. In most driving situations, these features are best kept off.
7. Digital rearview mirror
Cadillac debuted this tech a few years ago, and on the surface, it’s another pretty good idea. With big crossover and SUV interiors creating a tunnel-like view in your rearview mirror, you can now get a high-definition live stream from your backup camera beamed right into your mirror with the flip of a switch. But in reality, it’s difficult for your eyes to adjust to the perception shift, and that takes your eyes off the road for a few precious seconds, which is never a good thing. Unfortunately, this innovation is better in concept than execution.
8. Warning systems galore
Most new cars are available with a number of electronic safety systems, and for the most part, they’re great. You can get lane-departure warning, blind spot monitoring, back up assist; a whole host of things that tell you what’s happening 360 degrees around your car at all times. It’s all well and good, until you’re in a crowded parking lot or trying to parallel park on a city street. Then your interior turns into the Starship Enterprise on red alert. Having four different systems squalling at you every time you park is nerve-wracking enough, trying to turn all these systems off while you do it is even worse. We wish more cars had a master on/off switch for these otherwise helpful functions.
9. All digital controls
So the dashboard of your new car is a clean, sleek vision of modernity, with a big central screen, and nary a button or knob to clutter it. That’s all well and good — until you get blasted with cold air or loud music one morning and have to fumble through three different control screens to make it stop. We love the convenience of an infotainment screen and digital controls. But we’d still like to have physical radio and climate controls too, just in case.
10. Tire repair kit
Good news! Engineers found a way to increase cargo room in your trunk. The downside? You don’t get a spare tire anymore. Instead, you get a fancy can of fix-a-flats and instructions to call roadside assistance. In some cases, a good, old-fashioned spare is still available — at extra cost. We don’t know about you, but we’d rather have the piece of mind that comes with having a spare in the trunk than the few extra feet of space.
Micah Wright also contributed to this article.