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Motor Mouth articles 2009

When high-tech is just plain annoying

BRAINY technology is all well and good but there are times when it can get too clever by half.

My car’s been so full of itself lately, with its electronic array of warning lights and bleeps and flashes, that – if it did but know it – I have been close to the end of my tether with it.

Remember the Basil Fawlty episode when he took a tree branch and gave his troublesome 1100 a damn good thrashing? Now I can really empathise. I had my eye on a sturdy sapling for a while, I don’t mind telling you.

For some time my car was squawking on about some obscure microscopic problem somewhere deep in its bowels. Dave at the garage traced the problem to an intermittently faulty sensor buried under the carpet. He tweaked it with his hammer and now it only squawks occasionally.

Then, because the dashboard is not satisfied unless it’s yelling about some trivial flaw it has uncovered, it started on again, buzzing me with odd squiggly light patterns and wake-up screeches about some acronym – ABS or PMT or something. I did the obviously thing – ignored it – and it went away.

But now the annoying little gremlin that lurks among the wiring spaghetti behind my speedometer and rev counter has come up with its most stress-inducing behaviour yet. No sooner do I pull away than it screams a full-throated beep at me to draw my attention away from the road ahead and the numerous hazards thereon so that I can be informed of a grave situation: ‘Number plate light failure’.

This appalling, life-or-death fault is then rammed down my throat, with full-blooded sound effects and an iridescent orange light show, every couple of minutes. It doesn’t stop or take a break. It just goes on and on and on and on . . .

It started as I left home the other morning and continued without a break for the entire duration of a 200-mile round trip. I threatened it with the tree branch after less than 20 miles. I slowed down as we passed a scrapyard at one point to try and frighten some sense into it.

But no, so grave did it perceive the missing illumination on my number plate to be – even on a bright sunny day when lights were completely unnecessary – that it felt it had to maintain its constant nagging.

It was worse than having Mrs Mouth alongside me although she was and, needless to say, hardly noticed the electronic pyrotechnics so preoccupied was she with trenching her way through the mountain of food that she had loaded on board to sustain her on the journey.

The trouble is that I now have to find time to get the car into Dave’s workshop because, while the non-working light doesn’t trouble me, the smart-alec electronics are driving me crazy.

Footnote: I have now been to see Dave. The number plate bulbs had miraculously healed themselves, of course, but at my request he changed them anyway. He also showed me how to turn off the buzzer. It’s all quite easy when you know how.

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