This started out as a simple comment on this post by Gizmodo. After a few paragraphs I decided I should just blog it:
I drive a 1964 Buick Skylark. No power windows or doors, no gps, no fuel injection or electronic ignition or air bags. Even the one luxury it does have, power steering, is not like the speed sensitive stuff you have on modern cars. It will kill you if you aren't careful.
It's a joy to drive. The sound, smell, and feel of it are like no other. I feel at home in it. It will handle well, if you know how to drive it.
Don't get me wrong, I love gadgets. And in reality, I DO drive with one. My iPhone plays the role of stereo, gps, etc. But when gadgets become the thing that defines the experience of driving, they ruin it. You're no longer designing a car for driving. You're designing it as a thing to increase productivity or listen to music in. And that is where things go wrong.
The gadgets aren't limited to the interior either. All the suspension and driveline gadgets like traction control take away from the feel of the car. They allow people to just hoon a car around a turn without care for safety of efficiency. I'll beat you in that car. I'll beat you because I don't depend on a computer to correct my turns.
I also believe people drive more unsafely in cars because of gadgets. Not because of "driving qwerty" or because their trying to do an excel spreadsheet while doing 80. No, it's because of all the safety gadgets in cars.
When I look down at my steering wheel, hard edges gleaming with chrome, I know it's gonna hurt if I get in an accident. There is no air bag. Hell, I don't even have shoulder belts. My face is gonna eat that steering wheel. But I think that makes me a safer driver.
People are driving around in super-insulated, air bag cocoons that create an illusion of safety. People take more risks, less care with the way they drive their cars. And this makes the road more dangerous for everyone else.