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Had the pleasure of driving a Merc C-Class over the weekend. I say drive but it was little more than turn the wheel every once in a while for 500 miles. So many buttons, so much automation, so much to distract you.

The only redeeming feature was that the ride was fantastic and the seats extremely comfortable.

Visibility was atrocious - privacy glass for the rear windows and windscreen, and huge A & B pillars. B pillar and roof line in particular was so badly-placed relative to the driver that it was almost impossible to see clearly when turning right from a side road. It was also possible to set the driving position so low that I could barely see above the belt-line, and I'm almost 6 foot. Made it tricky to judge gaps and passing distances relative to parked cars. I've also worked out why you see cars with gouges in rear doors - reversing cameras only deal with the back of the car, not the sides.

From a safety perspective I liked using the speed limiter (important, because it was so quiet you had very little idea of how fast you were wafting along) but I'd imagine it just encourages drivers to drive at the posted limit all the time, rather than considering road conditions. No other active/passive safety features on this particular car because it was a hire car.

It seems that manufacturers are effectively selling an interior/lifestyle choice rather than a driving tool these days, the car was completely uninvolving to drive, even on Sport+ mode (firmer suspension plus comedy throttle blips as you roll up to stop lines FFS)

On the plus side I now have absolutely no desire to own such a technological marvel.

68 comments

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davel [2722 posts] 6 months ago
7 likes

This is why I stopped watching Top Gear years ago.

Clarkson (before he completely outed himself as the caricature twat that the world sees now) would witter on about all the technology, and berate cars that didn't have all this standard supercar gadgetry. So it's a car gadget programme being presented by someone who doesn't understand gadgets?

Then he'd get in a Ford GT that had none of it* and wet his grandad jeans about how it was proper driving. So it's a proper driving programme that spends too long on gadgets? Or a car-based light entertainment programme that stopped being funny when the presenters became the joke?

Driving round France early this summer, I did about 150 miles with uninterrupted cruise control set at the speed limit. I nearly fell asleep and then bricked it when I had to find my pedals again to brake because a lorry was overtaking another lorry on a two-laner - you know, standard driving conditions. Family in the car, too close for comfort, cruise control off for the rest of the fortnight. Forgetting you're driving isn't a great way to drive.

 

*His own GT went back as soon as he got it - he had the same success with the alarm and immobiliser as I'd expect my non-driving mum to have.

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cyclesteffer [388 posts] 6 months ago
2 likes

I went to a presentation night at the University of the West of England. They've been involved with lots of robotics and automation. There was a guy doing a presentation on a lot of the challenges faced by driverless cars.

One of the ones he said was a major problem, with driverless cars, is when the car asks the driver to take back control as it cannot cope with a situation up ahead.

He said that they've found out that people are completely unprepared to take back control of the car.

I guess its a bit like when you've been driving for hours on a motorway, and then stop to take over from your partner. It takes you a while to kind of flip your brain back into driving mode.

Yet with autonomous cars, the car might be asking you to take back control within a second, and they've found out people are completely unprepared for it, when the car has been driving for a couple of hours.

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hawkinspeter [3623 posts] 6 months ago
8 likes
cyclesteffer wrote:

I went to a presentation night at the University of the West of England. They've been involved with lots of robotics and automation. There was a guy doing a presentation on a lot of the challenges faced by driverless cars.

One of the ones he said was a major problem, with driverless cars, is when the car asks the driver to take back control as it cannot cope with a situation up ahead.

He said that they've found out that people are completely unprepared to take back control of the car.

I guess its a bit like when you've been driving for hours on a motorway, and then stop to take over from your partner. It takes you a while to kind of flip your brain back into driving mode.

Yet with autonomous cars, the car might be asking you to take back control within a second, and they've found out people are completely unprepared for it, when the car has been driving for a couple of hours.

Autonomous cars that rely on having a driver are a complete waste of time and probably more dangerous than just letting drivers drive. At least if you're actively driving there's a chance that you'll be paying attention, but to expect a non-driver to suddenly become alert and responsive to the situation is just laughable.

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Yorkshire wallet [2428 posts] 6 months ago
4 likes

Put some extra lamps on and this is about as far as cars needed to evolve.

//images.honestjohn.co.uk/imagecache/file/width/640/media/5693078/Sunbeam-Lotus.png)

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CygnusX1 [1148 posts] 6 months ago
7 likes
Yorkshire wallet wrote:

Put some extra lamps on and this is about as far as cars needed to evolve.

//images.honestjohn.co.uk/imagecache/file/width/640/media/5693078/Sunbeam-Lotus.png)

Something like this?

 

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Yorkshire wallet [2428 posts] 6 months ago
4 likes

I would literally kill for that. Myself probably about 2 minutes after getting in.

Those things are worth daft money now. If I was a man of endless resource I'd do the shopping in a group B car though. Metro 6r4 would probably be supermarket friendly.

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CygnusX1 [1148 posts] 6 months ago
2 likes

I've largely got over my petrolhead emotions of my youth, but there are still a few cars that I carry a flame for, the Lancia Delta Integrale in full rally spec being one of them.

No use in Manchester traffic though. Off road, I would probably stuff it into a tree on the first greasy bend so would be joining you in the queue for angel wings.

 

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Mungecrundle [1452 posts] 6 months ago
2 likes

My car has self dimming headlights which quite often get confused by lights not attached to vehicles and even by reflected light from road signs. I don't use that mode.

It also has adaptive cruise control which is actually rather good, but I wouldn't trust it 100% as it just doesn't seem to look far enough up the road and will quite happily accelerate you into a position where it is forced to disengage and hand back control.

However it does have a whole host of hidden tech from antilock brakes to electronic stability and traction control which have been around for years and work perfectly. I'm pretty sure that I'll own a fully autonomous and safe self driving car within the next 20 years.

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Bmblbzzz [284 posts] 6 months ago
2 likes

It is through the gradual creep of all those driver-assistance features (antilock brakes, etc) that fully autonomous cars will eventually arrive. Made by car manufacturers, not Google or Amazon. Arguably this started in the 1930s(?) with the first automatic transmissions. 

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Bmblbzzz [284 posts] 6 months ago
4 likes

It seems that manufacturers are effectively selling an interior/lifestyle choice rather than a driving tool these days, the car was completely uninvolving to drive, even on Sport+ mode (firmer suspension plus comedy throttle blips as you roll up to stop lines FFS)

Hasn't this been the case for a couple of decades now? Since they first installed cup holders, at least. 

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davel [2722 posts] 6 months ago
2 likes
HawkinsPeter wrote:
cyclesteffer wrote:

I went to a presentation night at the University of the West of England. They've been involved with lots of robotics and automation. There was a guy doing a presentation on a lot of the challenges faced by driverless cars.

One of the ones he said was a major problem, with driverless cars, is when the car asks the driver to take back control as it cannot cope with a situation up ahead.

He said that they've found out that people are completely unprepared to take back control of the car.

I guess its a bit like when you've been driving for hours on a motorway, and then stop to take over from your partner. It takes you a while to kind of flip your brain back into driving mode.

Yet with autonomous cars, the car might be asking you to take back control within a second, and they've found out people are completely unprepared for it, when the car has been driving for a couple of hours.

Autonomous cars that rely on having a driver are a complete waste of time and probably more dangerous than just letting drivers drive. At least if you're actively driving there's a chance that you'll be paying attention, but to expect a non-driver to suddenly become alert and responsive to the situation is just laughable.

Absolutely - the uber case in Arizona earlier this year. Car didn't detect (or avoid) the person wheeling a bike across the road, and the human 'driver' shat themselves.

https://road.cc/content/news/253393-uber-warned-over-safety-issues-its-self-driving-cars-days-cyclist-killed 

 

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kil0ran [1469 posts] 6 months ago
2 likes
Yorkshire wallet wrote:

Put some extra lamps on and this is about as far as cars needed to evolve.

//images.honestjohn.co.uk/imagecache/file/width/640/media/5693078/Sunbeam-Lotus.png)

Completely agree. Did a track day in one of those, utterly, utterly brilliant

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kil0ran [1469 posts] 6 months ago
1 like
cyclesteffer wrote:

He said that they've found out that people are completely unprepared to take back control of the car.

Two instances of that in driving the Merc for me

First - forgetting it was an auto and trying to use the brake as a clutch (fortunately nothing behind me). I'd been wafting along for 20 minutes on cruise control with both feet off the pedals.

Second - having the limiter on and trying to overtake a driver doing 45mph on a national speed limit single carriageway. Popped out, floored it, went up to 50mph and no more. Cue frantic scrambling to disengage the limiter as traffic approached.

(Actually the Merc has a limit disabler built into the throttle pedal - double tap from your right foot and it switches off and gives you full bananas and a decent shove in the back)

Granted the first one you can end up doing in any automatic if you're used to driving manuals but the isolation from the driving experience undoubtedly contributed to it.

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Griff500 [368 posts] 6 months ago
2 likes

I did 300 miles in a rented Nissan fitted with lots of gadgets a couple of weeks back. At first I was impressed by the lane change warning lights which came in if anything was moving in the field of view of the door mirrors. This being an attempt to stop you switching lanes if anything was over, or undertaking you. Then out in the country, the system fail lamp started flashing, which seemed to broadly coincide with passing forested areas close to the road. Not a failsafe system then. Then the self dipping headlights, whereby in the best case the car had a second of thinking time after you switched to main beam before the lights changed. Worst case, which seemed to be right hand bends with the headlights reflecting off trees, embankments etc, it wouldn't allow me to put main beam on. If I need main beam, I don't expect the effing car to stop me! There may be an override, but being a rental, I didn't have time to check it out. Not impressed with any of it. And this is all pretty basic compared to the level of intelligence a fully self driving car needs.

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Kapelmuur [461 posts] 6 months ago
13 likes

It’s not been mentioned that cars have grown too big. Every new model is longer and wider than the one it supersedes.  For example, the current VW Polo is bigger than an original Golf.

I ride mainly on rural roads and lanes and am constantly menaced by the enormous 4 x 4s that appear to be compulsory in Cheshire. They fill the width of the road and very few attempt to pull in for cyclists.

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Griff500 [368 posts] 6 months ago
7 likes
Kapelmuur wrote:

It’s not been mentioned that cars have grown too big.

.... And too heavy. Despite advances in materials and manufacturing processes, each revised Golf or 3 series is heavier than the one before. "when I were a lad", a family saloon weighed a tonne. Now there are few less than 1500kg. Whilst some of this is undoubtedly safety related, some of it is stupidity. Who needs a self closing boot for example, or electrically adjusting seats? All this extra weight in electric motors and gadgets, just makes the car harder to stop, and of course burn more fuel.

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Yorkshire wallet [2428 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes

One of my main bugbears with cars now is the minor improvements come at enormous expense. Lights for example. Not a massive increase to your buy price but when they die it's £800 instead of £8. I can see used cars being a potentially expensive role of the dice and insurance write offs after minor prangs.

A sensor in my car has gone that's not even related to ESP but because this one sensor has gone it's turned off my ESP. I'm sure there's some Audi logic somewhere but I can't see it. Don't need ESP anyway as the 4wd kicks in better without it and I don't need the over intrusive braking, sometimes you need to push a little over the traction limit to get the best out of it.

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freespirit1 [284 posts] 6 months ago
2 likes
Yorkshire wallet wrote:

Put some extra lamps on and this is about as far as cars needed to evolve.

//images.honestjohn.co.uk/imagecache/file/width/640/media/5693078/Sunbeam-Lotus.png)

I had one of those!!

Gutted when I had to sell it

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hawkinspeter [3623 posts] 6 months ago
1 like
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Duncann [1491 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes
CygnusX1 wrote:

there are still a few cars that I carry a flame for, the Lancia Delta Integrale in full rally spec being one of them.

+1 but in road-going spec and a subtle colour (I liked the burgundy-purple).

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Yorkshire wallet [2428 posts] 6 months ago
3 likes

I've got a Delta in Gran Tursimo Sport if that counts? With the VR headset it's as close as I'll ever get. 

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kil0ran [1469 posts] 6 months ago
2 likes
Yorkshire wallet wrote:

A sensor in my car has gone that's not even related to ESP but because this one sensor has gone it's turned off my ESP. I'm sure there's some Audi logic somewhere but I can't see it. Don't need ESP anyway as the 4wd kicks in better without it and I don't need the over intrusive braking, sometimes you need to push a little over the traction limit to get the best out of it.

Climate control has failed in my Passat. It's a nylon cog that's stripped on a motor buried deep in the dash. Need to rip the dash out to replace it - not much change from 12 hour's labour. Means I have no heat in the car and can't keep the windscreen clear. Car simply isn't worth fixing, and all because someone in marketing said that Passat-buyers demanded automatic climate control, rather than having a manual slider to switch the airflow from hot to cold.

And that's a 2005 car - one of these modern lumps is so integrated that if anything electronic fails it's hours and hours of labour to fix.

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kil0ran [1469 posts] 6 months ago
1 like
Duncann wrote:
CygnusX1 wrote:

there are still a few cars that I carry a flame for, the Lancia Delta Integrale in full rally spec being one of them.

+1 but in road-going spec and a subtle colour (I liked the burgundy-purple).

Biscuit leather interior with contrasting stitching

(remember it featured in a PC driving simulator c.1994)

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Grahamd [1031 posts] 6 months ago
1 like
freespirit1 wrote:
Yorkshire wallet wrote:

Put some extra lamps on and this is about as far as cars needed to evolve.

//images.honestjohn.co.uk/imagecache/file/width/640/media/5693078/Sunbeam-Lotus.png)

I had one of those!!

Gutted when I had to sell it

Likewise, especially as I had paid to have a cassette player fitted.

 

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don simon fbpe [2989 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes
kil0ran wrote:
Yorkshire wallet wrote:

A sensor in my car has gone that's not even related to ESP but because this one sensor has gone it's turned off my ESP. I'm sure there's some Audi logic somewhere but I can't see it. Don't need ESP anyway as the 4wd kicks in better without it and I don't need the over intrusive braking, sometimes you need to push a little over the traction limit to get the best out of it.

Climate control has failed in my Passat. It's a nylon cog that's stripped on a motor buried deep in the dash. Need to rip the dash out to replace it - not much change from 12 hour's labour. Means I have no heat in the car and can't keep the windscreen clear. Car simply isn't worth fixing, and all because someone in marketing said that Passat-buyers demanded automatic climate control, rather than having a manual slider to switch the airflow from hot to cold.

And that's a 2005 car - one of these modern lumps is so integrated that if anything electronic fails it's hours and hours of labour to fix.

Has it got a dipstick? My 2016 Volvo doesn't have a dipstick so when the oil warning light comes on the main dealer has to plug it in to the computer so they can find out how much oil to put in.

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Bmblbzzz [284 posts] 6 months ago
1 like
Kapelmuur wrote:

It’s not been mentioned that cars have grown too big. Every new model is longer and wider than the one it supersedes.  For example, the current VW Polo is bigger than an original Golf.

I ride mainly on rural roads and lanes and am constantly menaced by the enormous 4 x 4s that appear to be compulsory in Cheshire. They fill the width of the road and very few attempt to pull in for cyclists.

And part of the reason they're getting bigger is not for any driving or even ergonomic advantages, it's simply "so I can see over the other cars". no

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BehindTheBikesheds [3178 posts] 6 months ago
1 like

my first half decent car (after the W reg 1.3 MKII Escort I bought off grandad), was an ex company MKII VX Astra.1.3L SOHC with 75bhp. Enough room for 5 adults, bloody good sized boot, weighed 880kg and my regular fuel economy was 46mph with a max of 55mpg if I really held the needle @ 56mph (done a few times up to peterborough. For a petrol engine at that time and that size car there were few if any that could match it. acceleration was decent, handling whilst not sports like was fine given the 155/13 wheels.

No power steering, no leecy windows but it had a sunroof! I took it to 189,000 miles (put 125k on it in 6 years) before the rust got the better of it and it was still running despite a cracked valve so I was able to drive it to the scrap yard ... I got £1!

Whilst the estate was a bit of a munter the MKIII was nicer and gained power steering and bigger wheels but again was heavier due to all the bits n bobs manufacturers started throwing into motors, particularly crash protection stuff and river aids like power steering and mod cons like electric windows.

I got creamed from behind in the MKII whilst sitting at lights, I had a sore neck for a few days but that was it, the other party's motor was a write off, the Astra was repaired and had a new exhaust, I bloody loved that car, it got me through the Lake District one January when it was snowing and most others were sliding on compacted snow or ice just outside Barrow.

If the Astra had the latest frugal injection engine and a radio I'd buy that, well except I probably wouldn't cos I don't really need a car any more. Don't want/need anything else. IMO the main reason why fuel economy hasn't really moved on since the late 80s in petrol cars is weight, of course increased power draw and aerodynamics not changing much also has an influence.

New Nissan Leaf is heavier than my 2001 Passat Estate (which at 1440kg is no lightweight!), it's no wonder electric cars struggle for range unless you buy/rent even bigger polluting batteries!

A sub 800kg mid sized car with a modern petrol engine and driven sensibly would I reckon get you 60+mpg average. Problem is in this H&S festoone era and governments allowing distracted driving modules/entertainments systems in motors as well every driving aid possible motor weights have just got greater and greater and only changing to more expensive metals can offset some of that.

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Simon E [3741 posts] 6 months ago
5 likes
Griff500 wrote:
Kapelmuur wrote:

It’s not been mentioned that cars have grown too big.

.... And too heavy.

Sadly true.

When I replaced my MK 2 Polo (800kg) with 1.2L Fabia I found the newer car is both bigger all round and weighs half as much again yet the amount of interior space is almost identical. The performance of the 54bhp 1.2L 3-cylinder engine is certainly less responsive.

It has much fatter A-pillars and 3/4 panels so visibility is worse so I'm less confident reversing into small spaces. And this a 15 y/o bottom of the range model. I won't want to replace with a newer car because with the ever growing degree of unnecessary complexity and proprietary parts etc in each one I probably won't be able to afford to have anything fixed.

Yorkshire wallet wrote:

Put some extra lamps on and this is about as far as cars needed to evolve.

Sorry, but if we're gonna go retro then NOTHING will top a Mini Cooper.

 

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brooksby [4482 posts] 6 months ago
1 like
Simon E wrote:

Sorry, but if we're gonna go retro then NOTHING will top a Mini Cooper.

I see your Mini Cooper and raise you a VW 1302S.

Our family Beetle - yes, she does have a name too, but I'm not telling you - is a 1970 1302S.  No cassette player or 8 track.  No cigarette lighter.  No clock.  Always starts first time, reliable, steady.  Parts are cheap, everything is easy to access - you can do pretty much everything with a screwdriver and a socket set.  1600cc engine and four gears, can hit 80mph on a downhill on the motorway (once, by accident, with a tailwind yes ).

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hawkinspeter [3623 posts] 6 months ago
2 likes

From here: https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/black-cabs-taxis-air-pollution...

Quote:

Some newer models of the black cabs were found to emit even more pollution than older models.

The Chinese-owned London Electric Vehicle Company, formerly known as the London Taxi Company, based near Coventry, makes the TX4 Euro 5 model which was found to produce at least 50 per cent more NOx than either of the company’s earlier Euro 3 or Euro 4 models.

This means the average NOx emissions from black cabs have risen, per kilo of fuel used, over the past five years.

The research shows Euro 5 models along with older models are responsible for about 60 per cent of greater London’s NOx emissions from passenger cars.

Euro 5 and Euro 6 diesel cars are on average producing six times more NOx than equivalent petrol cars, the research adds.

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