Saturday, August 7, 2010

Useless Car Features

Volvo’s Personal Car Communicator
This is the blanket name given to the keyless entry remote that was first introduced by the automaker in 2007. Its capabilities include the usual (lock, unlock, trunk release) but they added something uniquely Volvo: a heartbeat sensor. I know what you are thinking; “Wouldn’t I be the first to realize that my own heart has ceased to function?”  However, it is not your heartbeat that Volvo is concerned with. The feature is sold as a safety mechanism to prevent someone from hiding in your backseat and jacking your business with a sock-full of pennies. It works something like this:
You have just finished dinner at the Waffle House and you are approaching your vehicle. A series of beeps emitted from your remote informs you that a heartbeat has been detected inside the car. Unless you forgot to drop little Timmy off at daycare, this is an indication that you are about to get affiliated the hard way. You nonchalantly walk back into the Waffle House, call the police, and have another BLT while waiting for the long arm of the law to embrace your uninvited passenger.
There are several flaws with this:
1. It reveals that Volvo has absolutely no faith in its own intrusion prevention system since this feature presupposes that the other feature they sold you has already failed miserably.
2. Does nothing to mitigate the infamous “dead hooker in the trunk” prank.
3. You must decode the series of beeps that the remote emits to realize that you are in danger which means the owner will likely need the owner’s manual to determine what their remote is telling them. Said manual is invariable stored in the glove-box, which puts you in a perfect position to get jacked by the aforementioned intruder while you are searching for the index.

The chilled glove compartment
This is a feature available from both Honda and Saab (albeit in diminishing numbers) that allows you to use your glove box as a bonus “mini-fridge.” You can place everything from canned Dr. Pepper to a vial of smallpox next to your owner’s manual and watch the magic happen. However, the name is somewhat misleading since the feature simply means that the manufacturer has placed a vent in the back of your glove box that distributes the air from your vehicle’s climate control system.
Where do I begin?
1. The system only works if you have the AC on and in the winter the system will blow hot air into the glovebox which means that the bag of Sargento cheese cubes you tossed in there last President’s Day will cost you a few bottles of Febreze come June.
2.  I can only imagine the horrendous accidents caused by the driver attempting to lean over the passenger seat and retrieve a Fresca from the glove box while driving down I-40. You may be forced to pick up a drifter just to have someone safely man your car’s “snack bar.”
3.  If this trend continues, other manufactures may be forced to up the ante. Keep your eyes peeled for Ford’s “Waffle-Iron Armrest” or Toyota’s “Dashboard Hotplate.” Before you know it the cigarette lighter will be dispensing relish and every time you engage the wipers someone is getting a vegetarian omelet.

Nissan’s Vitamin Spritzing Technology
According to a recent popular science article, future Nissan vehicles will be equipped with air conditioners that “spritz” the driver and passengers with small doses of Vitamin C. The carmaker insists this feature will lead to stronger natural immunity, better skin, and presumably an end to outbreaks of scurvy amongst Nissan owners. It appears that the vitamins will be injecting into the climate control system using some sort of replaceable cartridge. There is no word yet on the how much the feature will cost.
The breakdown:
1. If a malfunction occurred in the “vitamin infusion” process, it is possible that the driver would receive a substantial blast of liquid vitamin C to the face causing instant nasal and ocular irritation. To be fair, I am sure your passengers can take some comfort in the fact that their skin will look fabulous in the upcoming autopsy photos…
2. There is no feature that says “I want to die through anthrax inhalation” like a vitamin infuser. I cannot fathom a more ready-made vehicle for biological terrorism.
3. When vitamin C supplements are taken in high concentrations (especially when the person is not used to the supplement) it tends to cause a gastrointestinal condition known as “the squirts.” Not exactly something I would want to pay extra for.

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