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‘Modern car tech is creating more problems than solutions’

Editor-in-chief Steve Fowler isn’t convinced that every 'innovation' is an improvement over good old-fashioned simplicity

Opinion - car tech

I went to the opticians last week, which always means a good natter about cars – my optician is a bit of a petrolhead. Thankfully my eyes don’t seem to have deteriorated much since my last visit two years ago, but the car world has changed massively since 2021, so there was lots to catch up on.

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One point for discussion was the increasing trend of replacing mirrors with screens displaying the view from a rear-facing camera – both for rear-view mirrors as well as those on the front doors. 

As I’m now long-sighted, I need glasses for close-up work – reading and using a computer screen, for example. And like many people, I really struggle with these rear-view screens. As you can see from the picture above, I rely on my glasses to be able to see the display in my long-term Range Rover properly, yet I don’t need glasses to drive. 

I could probably get some sort of clever glasses that solve the issue, but I’m not convinced that these screens provide a better solution than the good old-fashioned mirror. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke...

You’d hope that every last feature of a new car is carefully analysed with the buyer in mind – often with clinics involved – to work out if the innovation really provides a decent benefit and the extra cost is worthwhile.

I can only think that didn’t happen with Volkswagen’s much-lamented touchscreen – now the subject of a rapid and radical rethink in Wolfsburg. 

It’s the same with the brand’s touch-sensitive steering wheel buttons that only take a slight brush of the hand to unwittingly change a crucial setting. VW is bringing back real buttons on its steering wheels.

My inbox is full of E-mails from car buyers complaining about tech they find distracting, such as touchscreens that mean taking your eyes off the road for too long. Maybe it’s time to get back to basics in our cars. I like tech as much as anyone, but it has to be simple – and safe – to use.

Do you think that in-car technology needs to go back to basics? Tell us in the comments section...

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Editor-in-chief

Steve Fowler has been editor-in-chief of Auto Express since 2011 and is responsible for all editorial content across the website and magazine. He has previously edited What Car?, Autocar and What Hi-Fi? and has been writing about cars for the best part of 30 years. 

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