The problem the automounter was trying to solve
The automounter was more or less created to solve one problem: trying to avoid having your machine hang when any of the huge list of pokey machines that exported NFS filesystems that you needed once in a blue moon went down. Again.
This problem is really an artifact of a much earlier age, of a time when disk space was so expensive that any machine with any amount of surplus disk space was pressed into general service. This created a massive web of NFS crossmounts and in the end made everyone's machine depend on all the machines. But those days are long gone. (At least I hope so. They weren't pleasant days even with automounters.)
I've always felt that the automounter solution to this was more of a hack workaround than a real solution. It worked, as long as you were lucky, but the needs of the solution created their own set of problems, and in modern environments the cure can now be worse than the disease.
(Locally, we got so peeved at the various problems the automounter was causing us that we've replaced it with something that does more or less what I wanted.)