Nanny state of mind

Cursed electronics get in the way of driving

DAVID HASSALL

IíD LIKE to think Iím a positive person, though many of my friends and family would suggest Iím perfectly qualified to star in an Australian version of Grumpy Old Men.

The Cherokee is a good test for looking at the glass half full, and one thatís challenged me from day one. Thereís much to criticise Ė ride quality and throttle response Ė but thereís also much to like.

For a start, thereís plenty of Ďfruití to play with, which makes a freeway cruise more enjoyable. Seat cooling is a welcome feature on a warm day and the sound system pumps the vibes from every corner. Iíve even overcome early frustrations with the iPod connectivity that, as it turns out, resulted from having an original unit. It prompted me to finally update to a new iPod Touch, and now it not only links perfectly, it also displays the album cover. Remember albums?

the album cover. Remember albums?

The soft ride drives me mad much of the time, but itís great on freeways where the Jeep lopes along comfortably, lapping up the kays. Even the steering feels reasonable at cruising speeds, if a little lifeless.

Iím not overly fond of the seats, but passengers like them, and thereís plenty of space for rear-seat occupants Ė even when the driverís seat automatically slides back when I turn off the ignition.

Adding to the Limitedís equipment list Ė and therefore its value equation Ė are the various electronic nannies. Itís just a pity they donít work very well, in my experience.

The lane-keeping assist is a hindrance when Iím trying to place the car for corners, pulling us away from white lines. And the parking sensors slam the brakes on at strange times... like when Iím reversing out of the garage.

Worst of all, though, is the forward collision mitigation system. In theory, itís a saviour, seeing things and braking if the driver nods off or becomes distracted. In reality, itís so conservative it intervenes at reality, itís so conservative it intervenes inappropriate times. One recurring example is when changing lanes and I know the car in front wonít be there by the time we glide past. Hell, one time it braked hard because it detected a car which was parked safely on the outside of a sweeping corner.

Thankfully no one was behind me.

These electronic nannies, Iím convinced, need more development, more finesse. They are as simple-minded as our legislators and only know how to dumb things down. The default action is to stop the car, even if it is in the middle of traffic, probably half-way between lanes with cars bearing down.

Thankfully, these systems can be turned off, though it feels wrong to be disabling Ďsafetyí features. But honestly, it feels to me like theyíre going to cause an accident rather than prevent one.

SAFETY SWITCH

Not only can the Cherokeeís Ďsafetyí systems be turned off, they stay off, even when you next start the car

JEEP CHEROKEE V6 LIMITED

Date acquired: November 2014 Price as tested: $48,915 This month: 1513km @ 11.2L/100km Overall: 4987km @ 11.0L/100km

You have one new message

SYNCING the phone was a piece of cake in the Jeep, though the phone now annoyingly chimes four times in the first few minutes every time after starting the car. Not only can I now make calls hands-free, but it also reads messages back to me and I can reply through voice recognition, using a menu of messages to let people know Iím running late or will get back to them later. Itís really good technology and the up-side of modern electronics.