Does Your Car Know What Time It Is? Shouldn’t It?

Self-driving cars that can’t tell the time?

Cars today are amazing feats of engineering, design, regulation, and production. That any car is built for a price normal people can afford on any level is, when you really dig down deep, mind-blowing. Imagine building a house with space for five, that also has a full network of computers built into it, at least one LTE connection, and the ability to self-stabilize at speeds over 100 mph. Now imagine selling that house for $18,000. Exactly.

So it’s not without some degree of understanding that I moan and whinge about this most trivial of non-functions. Those of us who live in nations where we arbitrarily rename the hours of the day depending on how warm it is outside are familiar with some variation of the old adage: Spring forward, fall back.

It’s fall, so we in the U.S. just fell back an hour, ending daylight saving time and returning to standard time. And unlike a few decades ago, most of the clocks in our lives are now smart enough to make the adjustment on their own. The phone in your pocket or purse surely did just that without your noticing. Chances are good your laptop or desktop computer did too. If you’re really on the cutting edge, your Internet-connected refrigerator and stove may have as well.

But one thing that probably didn’t update its clock automatically, even if you spent much more than $18,000 on it, is your car. In fact, you probably have a very fresh memory of going out to your car some time after the change this past weekend and noticing exactly that. You may or may not have bothered to update it to the correct time already, or if you’re like me, you’re just glad that your clock is finally correct again.

Surveying our fleet of vehicles in the office this week, both long-term and short, less than half of them auto-updated to the new, arbitrary declaration of time: our Four Seasons 2017 Honda Civic Type R and 2018 Kia Stinger GT, 2019 Honda Pilot, 2019 Mercedes-AMG GLC63, and even the 2019 BMW X1—it’s largely a sad little penalty box for reasons to be covered elsewhere, but at least it’s smart enough to tell the time through its connection to the cloud.

So, let’s get this straight. The timeline, according to what everyone seems to think, is:

• 2018: Most cars can’t figure out what time it is.
• 2019: ???
• 2020: Cars can drive themselves everywhere in any condition.
• 2021: Profit

Personally, I find it hard to believe something that’s dumber than a $55 plastic wristwatch (Casio WV200A-4AV) this year will be smarter than me next year. I’d be glad to be wrong about that. But I’m not.

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2019 BMW 2-Series

MSRP $41,100 230i Convertible