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I’m convinced the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation has a contact with BMW/Mini. In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams wrote about the corporation responsible for robots with 'real people personalities' and a drinks dispenser that always turned out a liquid almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.
For a long time, I’ve suspected that Adams actually had a time machine and popped forward to the 21st century in search of inspiration. Every time a mechanical voice tells me there’s some important news about my refund, or Amazon emails to recommend some items I may like, based on the thrash metal album I once bought a teenage nephew, I’m convinced of it.
We’ve had our Mini for just over a week. It's a very nice little car and very quiet and unrattly compared with most of our previous cars. Its cabin cavities glow green and purple in the dark, too. But we’ve had a couple of annoyances and one terrifying moment that saw us yelling and shaking fists at the onboard computer.
I was miffed that we only got one keyring. Having spent £16k, surely we could have one each? Plus, the salesperson warned us, we have to make sure we use both regularly. If we don’t, they die, like expensive tamagotchis, and you can’t get a battery, you have to buy a new key.
Then, this weekend we set off on our first reasonably long trip. When we bought the car, we said (several times) we wanted the Pepper pack because it provides an auxiliary jack and USB port to allow us to control the iPod through the audio system. That means we can make up a mutually agreed playlist to get round our problem of mutually exclusive musical tastes. (Detailed in my blog The Sound of Music April 7, 2012).
So we set off, me at the wheel, Richard all ready to set up the iPod. He plugged it in using the Apple connector. “ This cable is not supported,” sneered the audio. He rang the dealer, and sure enough, Apple’s cable won’t work. We’ve got to buy a BMW/Mini cable for an extra £42 if we actually want to use those expensive ports we shelled out for. Why didn't someone mention that? We felt like kids at Christmas when the batteries aren’t included.
On the way back, it was Richard's turn to drive and he drew the short straw. After an hour of inching through solid, aggressive, Friday night traffic in the dark and the rain, he was hot and wanted to take his jacket off. As we reached a red traffic light, he put the car into neutral with the handbrake on and took his foot off the clutch, so the fuel-saving auto-stop cut the engine. He had to release his seatbelt to get his jacket off, but had put it back on again before the lights changed.
He took selected gear, nothing happened. We didn't realise the computer with the bossy schoolmarm personality had decided “He’s taken his seatbelt off, it can’t be safe to start! We’re just going to sit here until he learns his lesson!”
So we were stranded. Cars were hooting and slicing past. In such appalling conditions, we were lucky no one rammed us. Safety feature? I don’t think so.
Luckily we’ve been watching the IT Crowd, so guessed the answer would be to turn it off and turn it on again.