Are grocery bag hooks really too much to ask for?
Trickle-down technology can be a slow business, particularly to reach base model vehicles or become simple options. Typically, there are two ways features become standard across the board on cars. One is legislation for safety; the other requires an automaker to take the plunge first and force the market to meet its standards and find a way to make the feature less expensive to install. Either way and for one reason or another, these are the features we believe should become standard on cars sooner rather than later. Some things shouldn't be based on the trim level a buyer can afford. Typically, we don't run list articles in order, but in this case, safety features come first.
Accidents happen. It's a fact of life. Running into another vehicle or a pedestrian isn't always out of pure negligence. With the best will in the world, not all of us will go through life without being the cause of an accident. Automatic emergency braking can, and does, save lives and prevent injury and costly damage. Here in California, it's a running joke that it's not a case of if somebody rear-ends you, it's when. Perhaps if driver education was more thorough because the test needed to pass for the privilege of a driving license and it wasn't so difficult to lose here in the US, that wouldn't be the case. But it is. Plenty of automakers offer the feature, often with pedestrian detection, but it's not standard yet across the board. For the 2021 model year, according to data reported by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), only six automakers had automatic emergency braking as a feature on all of their models. Those were Tesla, Volvo, Toyota/Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Jaguar Land Rover. Only 20 percent of the Fiat/Chrysler (now Stellantis) 2021 models had the safety feature.
There was a time when a comment would have a valid point saying, "just look over your shoulder," in response to the idea of blind-spot monitoring. No doubt, they still will, but that would have been approaching a good point a decade or so ago. Over the years, safety standards for cars in a rollover have dramatically increased, resulting in the pillars between the roof and the main body of the car have gotten thicker. At the same time, the belt line, as in the bottom edge of a vehicle's glass panels, has gotten higher. That means windows have got smaller, and blind spots bigger.
Some automakers are making the pillars thinner while retaining strength, but not enough. A blind-spot monitor gives the driver an audible or visual warning if a car is in that awkward spot where the side mirror might not catch it. If you don't think you need a blind spot mirror, consider how many times someone has changed lanes without spotting you coming up beside them.
When reversing, you can need your head on a swivel to do it safely - particularly in parking lots where people are prone to being frustrated or in a hurry. Depending on where you're parked, cars, people, or cyclists not paying attention at the exact moment you glance the other way can seemingly come out of nowhere. Rear cross-traffic alert can save a lot of anger, frustration, damage, injury, and, occasionally, lives. It is still a relatively expensive technology to add to a car as it requires a lot of quality sensors, but nobody reading this that has driven for a significant amount of time hasn't had a close call when reversing or when somebody else has been reversing. Not even you, that one guy in the comments.
We still meet cars without one or the other, occasionally without either. We've tried to unravel the mystery of why both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay aren't standard on all vehicles at this point. We know Google and Apple don't charge for licensing, and the hardware cost isn't high, so we can only assume it's automakers not meeting software standards to use the systems. We have to assume because automakers tend to clam up on the subject. Even worse is when an automaker tries to charge people for compatibility. As far as we know, none are right now, but we're looking at you, BMW.
At this point, automakers should have all the feedback they need from customers, reviewers, and experts in ergonomics and user interface. There is no reason for basic audio and climate controls to be accessed from a screen that trumps being able to just reach out and press a button or turn a knob using muscle memory. First, it's safer, and second, it's easier, and there's real feedback to changes made. At this point, it shouldn't be something we consider a feature. It's not so much volume control since Honda stopped messing around and brought it back with the 2019 Civic Si, but others like Volvo, Hyundai, and particularly the new Golf GTI have eschewed volume knobs entirely.
It's time for wireless phone charging to be baked into dashboards and center consoles. Sure, wireless charging isn't the most efficient way to go, but the car battery is being charged while you drive already, and the pros far outweigh the cons. First, wireless charging gets rid of untidy and annoying leads and having to play the whole USB plug-type game for passengers. If you're jumping in your car and the phone needs a charge, just dropping it in a charger is crazy convenient. If you're using wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, it's essential, and having to plug a phone in defeats the purpose of both systems.
But, just adding wireless charging to every new car is not enough. The chargers need to have adjustable fittings to keep the phone in place while you drive. We haven't met a wireless charging pad that doesn't stop working because it slipped out of position on the mat while going around a corner under normal driving speeds. Frankly, it's silly that no automaker has figured out that it can be fixed with a couple of small sliding pieces of plastic.
If every car had sunglasses holders, we would leave a lot of sunglasses in our loaner vehicles. However, for a car being owned over the years, it's crazy how many cars don't come with somewhere to leave a pair. It's hardly the most expensive thing to add, but it's one of those things you don't notice until it isn't there - even if you just stash a pair in the holder for those times you might find yourself needing a pair when the nice ones have been left at home. For reference, the $180,000 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Coupe GT in our driveway right now does not have a space specifically for the expensive Porsche Design sunglasses the brand will happily sell you. Honda used to be the best at this, and even had two sunglasses holders in the Element.
We've all dropped a couple of bags of groceries in the back of a car or crossover, driven around the first corner on the way home, and heard the contents of a bag spill itself out and start rolling around back there. For the sake of a couple of ridiculously inexpensive hooks added our built into the already plastic sides, the only reason anyone should ever get home and have to rebag their groceries is because they forgot to use the hooks. For reference, the $180,000 Porsche Cayenne in our driveway currently has a hook for a grocery bag. But, it is just one, and that's not acceptable in a large crossover. Our much less expensive Toyota RAV4 tester has exactly zero, which is even less acceptable as it's much more likely to be a grocery-getter. However, both crossovers have fancy chromed eyelets attached to the cargo floor for the cargo nets both brands will happily sell you.