Opinion: Evolution is making cars less fun

We are seeing the disappearance of another feature - the fog light

Opinion Evolution is taking our treasures away
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I bruised my tailbone recently, from trying to leap-frog a bike stand while I was drunk.

Some might say it was my own stupid fault, but I blame all the people who ride bikes. You don’t need a tailbone. Neither did the ape-men we evolved from. It’s a remnant from our monkey grandfathers on the evolutionary tree, from when we lived in actual trees. It’s outmoded equipment, like your appendix. Which leads me to fog lights.

Top-shelf car makers like Audi and Mercedes have decided that we don’t need fog lights any more, because modern adaptive xenon super-lights are like a cross between KITT and the Terminator, scouring the darkened landscape ahead for danger, just waiting for the go-signal from David Hasselhoff to shoot a biker and steal his clothes.

And once the top-shelf guys go fog-light-free, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the motor industry follows suit, as the entire industry slowly and inexorably turns into a single OEM based somewhere in China.

Look, I can live without fog lights. It’s not like I deal with a lot of fog. Maybe if I lived on a moor, I would write an angry letter to Audi about my increased danger of crashing into the hound of the Baskervilles during a real pea-souper.

But okay, they want to get rid of fog lights, that’s okay I guess. That’s pretty much what I said when car makers did away with ashtrays. I’d already quit smoking by then, so it wasn’t such a big deal. And there are still plenty of places to store five-cent coins and scrunched up parking meter slips.

Same with the cigarette lighter. I had no problem with them turning into power outlets instead. It’s all supplemental equipment, said the car makers, and almost everyone shrugged and said okay – everyone except for the two-pack-a-day die-hards, who wheezed angrily into their oxygen masks until the nurse made them lie down, and loansharks who liked pressing the hot coils on the hands of delinquent borrowers.

However, then came the handbrake. Replaced with the electric handbrake – the little one-finger switch. The first time I drove a car with one of those – some years ago now; I seem to recall it was an S-Class, and my mind was distracted with the gently circulating rainbow lights in the cabin, like a disco for sloths – it took me 10 minutes to find the bastard handbrake and actually get out of the garage.

And the handbrake was a real loss. Not that I was about to do some handbrake turns in an S-Class anyway, but it’s always nice to know the option is there.

Any reader of this magazine is likely to have some fond memories of taking their first car on a wet paddock or school oval one dewy morning, and getting loose with the tail and giggling like schoolboys in a cream-bulb factory. My first car had one of those umbrella-handle handbrakes that pulled out from under the dash, and I think that made it even more fun.

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Alas, no more. It’s all part of a trend, of taking stuff away in the name of progress. It’s evolution by subtraction. But just like evolution took away our tails and left us with a useless tailbone, good only for slamming painfully on bike stands, so car makers are taking away our primitive fog lights (with their $2 replacement bulbs) in favour of hyper-evolved xenon smart-lights (which require re-mortgaging the house to replace when something goes wrong).

Last one out the door, please turn out the fog lights.

 

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Tim Keen
Journalist

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