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Are cars getting too smart?

Automotive technology has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. These days you have electronics to control everything from the air conditioning to reverse parking, mirrors to seat position. And that’s before you start looking under the bonnet at the mind-boggling engine management systems. But are all these gadgets and gizmos really a good thing?

Certainly, the days when you could pop the bonnet, and with a little help from your Haynes Manual, pretty much fix any fault on your car, are long gone. Technology has advanced so much that many of us barely recognise the sophisticated, computer controlled engines that power our cars these days.

And while it cannot be denied that the vast majority of these innovations make driving safer and more pleasurable, in far too many cases, it also makes it much more expensive.

One in four cars likely to have an electrical failure each year

The problem with coming to depend on these electronic tricks and toys is that they can all too easily go wrong. And the more electronics your car has, the more vulnerable it is. A major survey by Warranty Direct found that top of the range cars, with all the bells and whistles, such as Bentleys and Porsches, suffer the most electronic failures.

That said, you don’t need to drive a hi-tech masterpiece to be at risk from electrical failure. In the survey, Renaults came out worst overall with more than one in three suffering an electrical problem in any given year, compared to Subaru models, which came out best with less than one in seven failures.

Overall, around one in four cars were likely to have an electrical failure each year.

The cost of repairing in-car technology

A further problem with electrical issues is the cost of repairs. Your long-trusted local garage can’t possibly keep up with all the advancements in vehicle technology, which means that many electrical issues can only be solved by main dealers, using specialist equipment – and charging specialist rates. For example, the average electrical problem in a Audi will set you back over £500.

The convenience trade-off

Of course, the more advanced our cars get, the bigger this problem becomes. The Warranty Direct survey found that the number of electrical faults in the 50,000 cars they surveyed, more than doubled from 5,300 in 2008, to over 11,500 last year.

So next time you push a button to wind down your window, or flick a switch to reposition your driving seat, just remember that all this so-called convenience could come at a serious cost.

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