2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI: Traffic Alerts That Cry Wolf
February 17, 2015
So there I was, exiting the freeway in our 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI hatchback near Los Angeles International airport. I was on my way to a parking structure before catching a flight to Barcelona, Spain to drive the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata.
All of a sudden an alert popped up. There were two of them, in fact: one on the small information screen wedged between the gauges and another covering whatever had been showing on the large central audio/navigation screen. The larger one wouldn't go away until I acknowledged it by pressing "OK" on the touchscreen.
Apparently there was a wrong-way driver on I-5 at Cannon Street.
But I was a dozen miles from Interstate 5's nearest tangent point. And even though I'd heard of Cannon Street, I couldn't place it. I looked it up after I parked the VW and unloaded my luggage.
Cannon Street is in Carlsbad, California. It's the Legoland exit in northern San Diego County. In other words, the alert referred to something going on 93 miles south of my position. Some 4 million people live between here and there.
What a waste of my time and attention. This car has navigation. It couldn't issue the warning if it didn't. It knows where I am. It knows the distance to the threat. And it knows I'm not neither headed in that direction nor traveling on the road in question.
A fluke, you say? Apparently our Audi A3, a close relation to this V-dub, has done this, too. But I'm not done with my GTI rant just yet.
Check this out. This was three days later, no more than a half-hour after I cleared customs and got back in the car after returning from Spain.
This wrong-way Joe was 52 miles and four freeways distant in Claremont, Calif., with the whole of the L.A. basin in between.
Or how about this one? This one popped up two days later while I was shaking off the lingering effects of jet lag.
This time I was running errands near my home in Santa Ana while the hazardous driver I simply had to know about RIGHT NOW was causing havoc some 48 miles away in Santa Monica, quite close to Edmunds.com headquarters, as it happens.
I get where this could be a good thing, but I'm not nearly as enthusiastic as those that experienced the same alerts in our Audi A3. At distances such as these, this is utterly useless information. It's nothing but noise. It's like watching a 24-hour news network and allowing your anxiety level to rise based on something happening four states away.
There should be a 5-mile or 10-mile exclusion zone to ensure this type of traffic warning has a fighting chance of being relevant. It would be fine if I had guidance active and the events in question were somewhere up ahead along my actual route. But even then, 50 or 100 miles ahead seems like too much in the big city.
Our GTI makes me want to find and deploy the "off" button, which is a shame. But I've got zoned-out phone-talkers and head-nodding texters in the next lane to worry about. Don't bother me with a hazard that's not even in the same county.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 6,124 miles