“In the ’50s and ’60s, car makers would brag about horsepower,” said Justin Berkowitz, East Coast bureau chief for Car and Driver magazine. “Today, it’s about the technology.”
Indeed, automakers’ websites boast not just of high-tech safety advances, but about features not previously associated with cars. Toyota’s Entune smart-phone enabled system, for example, allows a driver to tell her dashboard to check sports scores or stock prices.
But some drivers do not want to be in constant communication with their vehicles.
“Your car does a lot of things you didn’t ask it to do — and asks you to do a lot that you didn’t have to do before,” said Jim Motavalli, a Connecticut-based car expert, writer, and regular blogger on the Car Talk website.
For example, many cars make drivers look at or acknowledge a safety warning before starting a trip, he said, pointing to a discussion on the Club Lexus website.
“My wife drives a ’05 GX470,” one Lexus owner wrote. “Is there a way to disable the caution message (i.e. Caution: Drive safely and obey traffic rules . . . ) that appears on the navigation screen every time you start the SUV?”
But even as some people gossip about their cars as if they were co-workers, Mark Boyadjis, a senior analyst and manager at market research firm IHS Automotive, said drivers should get a little perspective.
“You need to think about which is more annoying,” he said. “A light indictor that goes off when you may be driving a little erratically, or a $500 repair bill and a lawsuit” if you get in a fender bender?
Besides, the more your car does for you, the more you can hold it responsible when you mess up. When Mary Backlund, of Wrentham, backed her 2011 Toyota Sequoia into a tree, she blamed her car’s rear sensors. Or, as she told her husband: “It’s the car’s fault.”