KISS. No, we’re not talking about the band, we’re talking about the saying: “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” It’s a motto that some people use throughout their lives, and by keeping things simple, they avoid quite a few problems – usually financially.
Keeping things simple can be illustrated with a metal bar. It can only be used as a metal bar. Nothing else can happen, meaning nothing goes wrong with it. But add a hinge to it and with enough use, the hinge will break. Add a bearing and the bearing could break, seize or wear out. Combine more moving parts and more things are likely to go wrong. This is the KISS principle in action.
But after hopping out of the tremendously luxurious BMW M760Li recently, it was clear that BMW has thrown the KISS principle out the window. The term “technological tour de force” has been often overused, but in this case, it’s the truth. You can control the radio with a twirl of a finger in the air. You can park it via remote control. It has night vision. You can enjoy a seat massage while you drive, and if you trust it, the car will drive itself. I’m wondering if it’s possible to fill a car with any more gadgets.
The gesture control, for example, uses three sensors each side of the infotainment screen. Make a rotating motion with your finger and the volume is adjusted – clockwise for up, anti-clockwise for down. Want to change the radio station? Point two fingers at the screen. So what happens when those sensors stop working?
Or how about the remote control parking – you hop out, tap the screen on the key and it will remotely park the car, steering into a gap perfectly and stopping when it senses a wall. Watching people’s faces when you demonstrate a driverless car parking itself is just priceless. But the key can and will break at some point. And if there’s a malfunction with the parking sensors, will it drive itself into that wall?
Press a button on the steering wheel and the car locks on to the lanes and will become autonomous, keeping the car centred, while scanning the traffic in front, braking when needed and accelerating when required. As one passenger put it, “this is James Bond tech right here.” But what happens if it doesn’t see the lanes properly? Fully autonomous cars have several fail-safes, but it’s possible they can go wrong, too.
Looking through consumer surveys you find that some of the most advanced cars are also some of the least reliable. Tesla’s Model X, for example, has had a raft of issues, from its electric systems to its falcon-wing doors. And BMW also has its problems, landing in the middle third of lists of manufacturers and their faults. So, that beautiful M760Li is a potential minefield of ridiculously expensive issues, and that’s before something breaks on the 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12.
As we become more reliant on technology, we also become less accepting when something goes awry. Rather than being an inconvenience that the gesture control doesn’t work, human nature means we storm into a dealership demanding that it be fixed, despite still being able to use a regular volume control knob. So how many issues could happen before it becomes labelled a lemon? See, if all the extra tech that you get over and above a Toyota Camry fails, isn’t it just a regular car, then?
There’s a reason why Toyota is at the top of every reliability survey. The cars are built to be simple. They use tried and tested techniques and don’t ever push the boundaries. Boring, but dependable. Which means that if you’re happy to go without glitz and glam, you can have a machine which outlasts the moon. In the long run, that’s one less financial hiccup. No-one lusts after a Camry, but there’s a lot of sense in keeping it simple.