I'm depressed nowadays. Cars are getting too expensive, too complicated, and too automated. Now, in our glorious digital age, we have this weird need to add apps and touch screens to everything when it was perfectly fine in original form. Enter the gilded era of the digital dash. Ugh.
Let me say first that digital gauge clusters look way cool on a nice variety of cars. Take the Lexus LFA and the trick digital dial that trickled down into the upcoming '14 Lexus IS (but with sliiiiiiding parts). That's hot. I'm an equal-opportunity lover on anything visually ballsy, as long as it works in context. Perhaps that makes me an art snob (hey– screw you, pal) or some kind of self-proclaimed visual genius, but I have real concerns with digital gauges beyond just aesthetics. In fact, I have exactly five of them:
1. The Look is Saddening
Let's get visuals out of the way first, since looks are subjective in all honesty.
The experience begins when you slide into your sick new vehicle ... the formaldehyde and pigment is still evaporating from the leather (still tight from the factory installation), you peel the protective shrink wrap from all the shiny bits of the center stack, and you love the way the carpets are thick and not yet matted down like an old apartment hallway. And then you dart your eyes through the gap in the steering wheel to expect a visual treat from some awesome gauge craftwork when suddenly – nothing. The gauge cluster is nothing. It's a black hole. An empty screen, slightly greyed by the powerless LCD pixels. The only visual connection between you and the car is void, save for the campy "Welcome!" screen when you open the door.
It's like waking up to my wife in the morning, slowly opening our eyes in bed to greet one another, only her eyes are soulless and black, except for digitized eyeballs that appear once booted up (customizable retina colors!) and a short advertisement for taking out the trash. I married an android – a soulless, thoughtless, heartless human-ish thing – and you just bought yourself a soulless, thoughtless, heartless automobile.
2. It'll Age ... Quickly
You know how you'll find your old Dell laptop in the closet from the 90's, and it's still running Windows 98? YEAH, you know the feeling. You think "OH MAN, I haven't booted this puppy up in ages" and you plug the power supply into the wall (because the battery is shit) and discover to your amazement: "Holy shit ... Windows 98 SSSUUUCCKKKS."
As much as they're meant for upgrades, there's no way in Hell we're going to bother with updating the software and user interface that runs in the background of a car's digital dials. Do you know how quickly technology changes, and the attention span with it? How many iPhones or Android devices have you owned, or still keep shoved away in a drawer? I thought so.
In one year's time, every owner of a car with a digital gauge readout will be kicking themselves for not waiting until the holographic / three dimensional / retina-resolution / 360º wraparound gauge. They look down at their small, adorable attempt at a 2013 replacement for analog gauges and think "Shit. This might as well have a start button in the lower left. Oh wait, I guess I have one of those too."
No software upgrade is going to fix your aching heart for the latest and greatest. You and your outdated, substandard car with a pixelated speedometer.
3. It'll BREAK Just Like Any Piece of Shitty Digital Gadgetry
I can't remember one single LCD/LED/Plasma screen that hasn't yellowed over time, lost pixels, busted its backlight, burnt its corners, magically incinerated the connection feed, or decided to absolutely go apeshit for no apparent reason. Fuck your dumb-ass screen and insist on a car with proper physical dials and gauges. Because they last for more than eight goddamn months.
4. They Scream "Simulator"
Here you are, sitting behind a wheel of a car with electronic power steering, completely automated gear selections, listening to fake engine notes (looking at you, M5), facing a dashboard made of fake wood and fake leather, likely sitting in seats made of aforementioned fake leather, giving reminder instructions to a fake woman named Siri, listening to the radio that features fake drums and faked vocal pitches, all while you stare down the road and intermittently glance down at your fake gauges.
You're playing a really boring version of Forza as far as I'm concerned. (See also: Pyongyang Racer)
5. They Remind Us Of The Shitty Future In Motoring
Facing the reality of a diminishing number of manual transmissions is really hard for me, and I'm sure for a large amount of you as well. The fact that cars are attempting to achieve "ultimate simplicity" is beyond my reasoning, because reality points to the fact that automobiles are becoming too complex in order to shoot for that impossible benchmark. It's like forfeiting freedom and expression in order to achieve safety and equality – it's the wave of the future, but it murders the spirit of the human experience.
At some point, we all might as well ride the bus.
Now – back to my abacus. Taxes are running waaayyy late this year.