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You shouldn’t have to set a terrain dial

6 July 2012 · Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Jeep advertises the “terrain dial” as a desirable feature of their Cherokee model. I’m no rocket surgeon, but can’t computers do better?

OK, I’ll admit, I know zero about the engineering of all-terrain automobiles. I’m just saying, isn’t it just a little weird to ask a human to rotate a dial 90 degrees to the right when they drive onto sand or mud?

I imagine that the difference between “pavement” (or whatever the other setting is) and “sand or mud” is that there’s more “give” in the sand and mud setting. That is, the vehicle shifts down to give more torque and less power in situations where the wheels are likely to spin rather than catch. Or, maybe it reduces torque so the wheels don’t spin. I don’t know. For my point, it doesn’t actually matter.

(Aside: When I was a kid, I had a friend, Doug Bird [if you’re out there], who called traction “gription”. It was endearing at 10 years old. It’s endearing now.)

Anyway, call me crazy, call me a naive engineer, but I’m just saying, straight stiches and clean welds aside shouldn’t a computer be able to detect if the wheels of your car are slipping more quickly than you can change a dial on your dashboard?