A is for Acronym

What need could we possibly have to RTFL? Rather a lot, as it happens…

(c) Fimfiction.net

Men. We do not require an instruction book; perhaps only to enforce our knowledge upon those who know not. Nor hints to work the car. We are men. We know. Even if the eyes are strained and the arm becomes trombone-like, we shall not bow down to the book.

That is until we need to tap into the sub-menu that operates the dual heating options. And the stay on lights‘ length: do we need them at twenty five, or thirty seconds? I know a chap who was openly boastful at not knowing how to switch on the heated rear window. He worked in IT. The car was a Toyota Auris, hardly taxing in any aspect.

The modern car; that is anything built from the year 2000, is a computer that happens to seat several people, along with a form of music media. The inexorable rise of technology equates to a baffling array of options, add-ons, extras and accessories that in all honesty has made driving the actual car worse. We all benefited from Electronic fuel injection, ABS brakes, Electronic Skid Control and central locking; Ideas that enhance, make safe.

Only then did buffoonery take over as the Electronic Control Unit grew hungry to control more. Recently reading a test drive of a Mercedes caused me to investigate. Prepare for an acronym onslaught. Sliding seamlessly with acronyms are the length of model names. The car in question is a Mercedes AMG C43 4-matic Estate. Say that after a sniff of vermouth. Nowhere near the longest nomenclature, either.

If you add up all those acronyms they would stretch the entire length of the car sixteen times. (c) Carsuk.net.

With its three litre V6 developing just shy of 400bhp (here we go…) over 500 Nm of torque and that clever 4-matic AWD, the weight balance is 31:69, front to rear. With this being a magazine’s test drive, the car had been lavishly box-ticked. The base model comes handsomely equipped anyway as it should for £50k but we all know the lucrative money spinner the Sisyphean extra is to the manufacturers.

With steel springs that have the redoubtable four easy to choose settings, one can set the car up for the school run, rubbish dump tour, dash to the coast or pretending you’re Walter Rohl at the Nurburgring. Automatic mode or flappy paddles? Your choice sir, though be advised there are nine cogs in there, somewhere.

Most colours these days cost more so that’s one you’ll either agree with or push hard against. Now, to the Premium package, that will cost you five grand. The reward for your largesse being a Burmeister surround system over the presumably standard vacuum tube and valve set up, Comand on-line (why only the one m..?), a larger 12.3 inch digital display (configurable) ambient lighting, an LED intelligent lighting system, wireless charging for you smart device, a 360 degree camera, no ignition key and a Panoramic sunroof.

You want more? Course you do, mate!

The Driving Assistance Package, which (deep breath) has not one but two lots of ABA’s, Active Blind spot Assist along with Active Braking Assist which handily ties in with Cross Traffic and Tailback Emergency Braking. Now add ADAD, ASLA, ALCA, ALKA, ESA, RBSA and Pre-safe. Acronyms that will relieve you of another £1800. Come on, man; you MUST know what they all stand for, no?

In order, Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Speed Limit Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Route Based Speed Adaptation. Pre-safe is the seatbelt tensioner. Never having had the option of driving one of these acronym-ed beasts, only seeing what the journalists informs us with, most people seem to either switch these off or attempt to ignore them.

Difficult when the sub-menu to access them is contained within a sub-menu. As with our ubiquitous smart phones, there’s an accompanying irritation in the shape of beep, ping or both to distract you from enjoying your service station machine made cappuccino whilst driving one handed, deep in conversation with your beloved, at a cruise controlled 83mph and the regulation 80cm gap to the car in front.

Ah, the slippery named Satin Steel Grey (metallic) Opel Insignia Sports Tourer 2.0 Bi-turbo CDTi ecoFlex. Which in turn is just in front of a Seoul Pearl Silver Land Rover Range Rover Evoque 2.0 TD4 Ecapability 4×4 HSE Dynamic. It’s not just Mercedes, then, nor my ire with Stuttgart-Untertürkheim alone as the French and the Anglo-Indians see fit to bombard and bamboozle us with the same, if not more gadgetry and naming nonsense.

Hello insurance? I’d like to make a claim, please. I’ve twisted my tongue over the length of my car name… (c) Autocar

My jaded eyes fail to be impressed by all of this. I remember a time, not so long ago when you had a key to gain access, a different key to start the car, a heater and radio if you were lucky. Progress and marketing made us want more and whilst I can not dispute that some of these acronyms must be useful, my heavy heart believes most of them to be frippery, window dressing. 60 ambient colours for the dash, really? Digital over analogue dials? Rear cameras help. But the make the exhaust louder button is free!

There are bigger beefs to attend to but this being DTW, I’m sure the Mercedes is PDQ and VGVFM but all the BS concerning these acronyms makes me reach for The A & E through the NHS.

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

12 thoughts on “A is for Acronym”

  1. COMAND only has one M because it is, of course, an acronym: COckpit MANagement and Data system. Also if you allow me to be a bit pedantic: it’s Burmester and not Burmeister.

  2. I think almost all of this electronic crap is useless if not counterproductive. It gives the illusion of “high specification” at the price of a bunch of cheap children’s electronic toys.

    The materials in these cars are mostly crap compared to what was in cars 50 years ago. At best you get some leather glued over plastic which fools the gullible into believing they are buying a “premium” interior.

    Compare to expensive houses. I’ve never been in a house that had electric windows. I’ve never seen a house that had keyless-go entry. I’ve never been in a house with a view, that built the windows so you couldn’t see out, and then substituted with video screens.

    I’ve never been in a house that had central locking (although given the size of some of these properties, it would actually make some sense).

    According to 2020 thinking, this is “poverty specification”. It’s just nonsense.

  3. See you what you have started Andrew. You will be inundated with more of the same no doubt.
    I agree with you though as I struggle to remember what CGI stands for on my W204 C Class 230. It’s actually Controlled Gasoline Injection. Wtf is gasoline? Aaaagh!

  4. Word of the day, buffoonery 👍🏻. Even my humble Smart ForFour is really a Prime Sport Premium+ DSG. Oh for the simplicity of my old Triumph Herald. Simple to work on, easy to drive and no buffoonery IMHO.

  5. Well said, Andrew.

    Yes, it’s all a bit of a hoot, isn’t it? My car only admits to an even dozen electronic nannies, but unlike the Merc, they came included in the price as the Japanese are wont to do. My 2008 car had exactly NONE of the stuff I talk about below except heated seats, and it listed for $9000 more in 2008 money than my 2019 car in depreciated present day currency.

    My first car, a used 1960 Volvo 544 which unfortunately wasn’t equipped with the pull-plunger winsdscreen washer the ’61’s came standard with (note the similar progression in toys each year then as now?), forced one to carry bottled or tinned Coca Cola to clean the screen of salt spray which the heater baked on at a great rate in winter. You pulled over and stopped, then hopped out with a toilet roll and the Coke at the ready. It ate the grunge beautifully, leaving one wondering what it did to one’s stomach when quaffed as a beverage — but I digress. That heater beat(s) my new Mazda6’s one hollow on a really cold day, say -15C, especially from cold starts. A three hour trip from uni to home would leave the dash toasty enough to use as a plate warmer, but the drum brakes were good for only one stop from 90 mph before fading, so there’s that.

    There are about five nannies on the Mazda related to the front view. Pedestrian Detection, Smart City Brake Support, Smart Brake Assist, Distance Recognition Support System, and Radar Cruise Control with Stop & Go. I didn’t pay extra for the next model up which includes Traffic Sign Recognition and Heads Up Display. I’ve read the owner’s manual several times, and it is useless. Each of the first four nannies I list are treated separately, and there is not one unifying explanation of how they work together or separately depending on conditions. Nor have I ever been warned that one is hard at work by beep or light on dash, so they might as well not be there! The Radar Cruise is very nice, however, once one goes into a submenu to set the distance at which it operates from the vehicle in front.

    It has Rain Sensing Wipers, and the obligatory Automatic Headlamp turn on with Automatic High Beam Control. And a pretty good windscreen squirt system one has to initiate the operation of oneself! I mean to say, cheap or what? Heated steering wheel and seats with 10 way power and Power Lumbar Control. The Automatic Dimming interior mirror works a treat at night. When the engine is started by Remote, if the temperature is below 5C, the rear backlight and exterior mirror defrosters turn on for 15 minutes, which is nice when it has snowed lightly.

    What does work extremely well is the Rear Cross Traffic Alert, excellent at ferreting out old ladies approaching from the sides beyond rear camera view in supermarket parking lots, but there’s none at the front, which when you’re parked between hulking SUVs is a bit of a disappointment when edging out. The Blind Spot Monitoring System works very well, saving my bacon once so far when a car overtook me on the inside just as I signalled to return to that lane. It beeps frantically and lights up the appropriate outside rearview mirror.

    But one last nanny, the Lane Departure Warning Assist, somehow labelled LKAS, is a demon. This piece of utter nonsense, which has two ways of being turned off, thank goodness, including with a dedicated button, takes over steering the car if it thinks you’re drunk and not paying attention to lane markers rather than merely dodging the common pothole. It really tugs distractingly heavily at the steering wheel. Turned that off on day one. Now a beady-eyed light with the really teeny miniature letters LKAS with a line drawn through them constantly stares back at me from the dash in a reproving glower. At least the Tire Pressure Monitoring System light works, when one naughty one got a single psi low.

    Yes, there are light delay settings, fade to dark time settings, distance settings for engaging brake assist and radar cruise setback distance, beep loudness settings etc. accessible in the infotainment menus, a Compass flirting away in the dash for Trainee Boy Scouts, and a switchable gauge for either engine temp or current and average fuel economy. At least the car has LED amber rear turn signals — our required minimum standard in Canada is just red like the brakelight. The lights front and rear are all LED which doesn’t melt snow. And when I remembered to use it in warmer weather, it has a sunroof, dear lord. The rear centre armrest , a Herriott imperative, is a good 10 inches wide and has a tray for biccies, two cup holders and two USB outlets for my niece and her pal. Oh joy.

    The keyless entry annoys me, locking doors seemingly randomly to quacking beeps when you’re unloading passengers or shopping bags. But the electric boot release is swanky and also has a rubber bulb on the lid itself by the rearview camera for those times one forgot to push the inside button before getting out. I never had a problem with the Ignition Key for 55 years, so the new Push Button Start presumably just saves heavy copper wiring to the steering column key switch, which btw in that old Volvo was an actual armoured cable! Try cutting that, car thieves! No stealthy RFID capture of the signal emitted by the “key” back in the Stone Ages.

    Good thing the car drives beautifully or these gizmos would no doubt drive me batty if it were a recalcitrant slug. The steering is particularly excellent. It wouldn’t keep up with a C43, you lucky lad, but it has 250 turbo horsepower, 400 Nm of torque and a lot less weight for a lot less than half the price. And not a single rattle or squeak, the first and only new car I’ve bought in almost fifty years in or on which I was unable to find a flaw upon delivery. Unless you count LKAS.

    1. Good morning, Bill. Your new Mazda came with a sunroof? I thought that particular feature was long defunct, killed off by climate control. Maybe I have not being paying enough attention?

  6. Very true, and wittily put, Andrew, thank you. Your piece was 😊 funny but, despite what I say below, not quite PMSL funny, thankfully!

    Being roughly two-thirds of the way through my likely lifespan, I have to be careful how I use my remaining waking minutes (about 10.5 million, since you ask). My heart sinks when I’m faced with an instruction manual that would double up as a door-stop. Recently, I purchased a new clock-radio and the manual ran to forty odd pages. FFS! It’s just a bloody radio with a clock attached! How can it possibly be so complicated?

    Many modern electronic and computer devices are now so complex that, in a laudable attempt to save paper, the come only with a printed quick-start guide and a URL to find the full instruction manual online. As someone who still struggles to read complex instructions on a screen and is much more comfortable with hard-copy, I’ll often end up printing the whole thing off anyway, rather defeating the object!

    Joking apart, as someone who needed recently to familiarise myself with a (thankfully, very basic) hire car in an airport car park in darkness before setting off on a 45 minute drive to our destination, I do worry about the complexity and lack of intuitiveness of many tech-heavy modern cars. How many drivers in my circumstances might set off without understanding how to operate the controls for the air-con, for example, then find themselves distracted while driving on unfamiliar roads, trying to alter settings on a hidden sub-menu to de-mist the windscreen? Hardly conducive to road safety.

    1. Daniel. Even better, for many North America Fords it is now difficult to find the hazard light switch.

  7. Hi Andrew,

    Apparently a lot of them are ‘initialisms’ rather than ‘acronyms’. I didn’t know that either but this is from the Psychological Science website:

    “The term acronym is often misused to refer to any arrangement of letters that stand in for full words, such as PTSD, DV, or GPS. However, words like these actually are termed initialisms. The technical definition of an acronym only encompasses abbreviations that are pronounced as words, such as POTUS, FEMA, or NAFTA. Here we will use the umbrella term abbreviation to refer to both acronyms and initialisms.”

    1. ……and the bets are in for what PSA and FCA will call their new venture. PFA ? FPA ? PSAFCA ? FCAPSA ? Exciting times……

  8. [QUOTE]……and the bets are in for what PSA and FCA will call their new venture. PFA ? FPA ? PSAFCA ? FCAPSA ? Exciting times……[/QUOTE]


    1. Hi Fred Jones,

      BUST would be for Nissan according to Carlos Ghosn 😀

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