Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Cars' Gadgets & Gizmos: When Not Everything Goes Vroom

Bill McChesney/Flickr

In a world of modern accommodations every new gadget and gizmo is made to provide convenience, through regularly it comes with added confusion and expenditures.

Remember those things made out of paper that rested on your lap when you drove through an unfamiliar place?  Then you tried unsuccessfully to fold them up and stash them in your glove box when you were done?

Paper road maps have been often left behind by their high-tech cousin, the GPS.  Of course, the add-on GPS has been supplanted in many cases by a built-in GPS in newer cars, to go along with back-up cameras, integrated mp3 players, and many more options.

You might call it “gizmo overload,” and it's driving automotive contributor and certified "car nut" Mark Savage crazy.

He says he just wants the power to make the choice of what to implement in his automobile. With enough features built into the car, the total cost of vehicle will increase. Plus, he says those GPS systems are distracting with the blinding light they produce.

Many of these available options are unnecessary, defeating convenience and replacing it with a glorified laziness, Savage says. The Push Start button replaces a key to start the ignition by carrying a sensor in ones pocket; Savage calls it a ridiculous feature that increases price and eliminates the simplicity of starting a car.

"One of my other pet peeves is rain-sensing wipers," he says. "I think I know when it’s raining, and I can turn on my own wipers.  It’s not hard – you reach, you pull the knob, you turn the knob, it really doesn’t take much effort."

But amid all the confusion and buttons, there is hope. Savage says the "miraculous" backup camera provides safety in a sensible fashion. That said, the backup beeper, which alerts the driver by beeping anytime the vehicle gets to five feet of an object, can be distracting and numb the driver to its repetitive noises. Both the alert systems come with extra costs, but some would argue the safety benefits are worth it.

Savage says most of the add-ons and new hot-to-trot features are luxuries that can facilitate driving, but are by no means a necessity.

While he hopes for a return to simplicity, for now Savage says he'll settle for the decision to decide what's in his car. Ultimately, he says it should be the consumers' choice what features to have instead of pushing an increasing lethargic driving lifestyle on people.

Stay Connected
Dan Harmon was one of the original members of Lake Effect (formerly At Ten). He started at WUWM in November of 1998 and left December of 2015 after 17 years of production.
Mark Savage writes the auto review column, Savage On Wheels, for WUWM (formerly for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and He is the former executive editor of American Snowmobiler magazine and FineScale Modeler magazine, both part of Kalmbach Media in Waukesha.