September 12, 2014 by T. Gregory Argall
So, I opened the car door for Denzel Washington.
He got in the car.
I closed the door.
Everyone involved was pretty much satisfied with the outcome.
The Toronto International Film Festival has hit town. My “day” job is Office Monkey for a limo company so this is a zany, hectic, no-sleep time of year. To cover all of the bookings we rented about fifty extra SUVs and sedans.
And that means that I got to drive a different vehicle home every night.
I took advantage of this opportunity to try out some of the new features and technology in the new cars.
Features like the Lane-Drift Warning Thingy® that (guess what) warns you if you are drifting out of your lane. It detects the pattern of the lines on the road and, using that to define your lane, shows a display with your vehicle between two sets of green lines.
If you leave your lane without signalling with your blinker, the lines turn red (like blood) and the steering wheel vibrates violently.
The Parking Aid Thingy® is another multi-media feature. When reversing there is the now-common rear camera display on the middle console. If you get close to another vehicle or wall or post or single branch from a shrubbery, flashing lights start blinking on the display. If you continue reversing, an annoying ping sound repeats over and over, getting more rapid as you get closer to the object. If you are so bold as to still ignore the warnings (because, perhaps, you are trying to park as many vehicles as possible in a confined space), the rapid blinking and beeping will be accompanied by an urgent and random rumbling quake in the driver’s seat.
Yes, the car will literally punch you in the bum if it doesn’t like how you are driving.
I’m somewhat torn regarding how I feel about this. On the one hand I recognize that there is a definite need for anything that will promote and encourage safe driving techniques. But on the other hand, it’s almost an admission of failure. How pathetic are we as a society that rather than deciding within ourselves to make the effort to become better drivers, we instead invest time and money into developing technology that will spank us every time we drive like morons?
I think what bothers me most of it is the fact that you have the option to disable these safety features, along with several others, including the passenger-side airbag. (Think about that the next time you start an argument with the driver.)
People have (and will inevitably exercise) the chance to decide, “No, I want to revel in being a danger to those around me instead of allowing the effortless Pavlovian correction of my unsafe driving habits.”
There’s a fine line between making something idiot-proof and actually catering to idiots. I suspect that car makers are doing the latter under the guise of the former.
Now we just need to develop machines that will spank them, instead.
Anyway, drive safe and try to be nice to each other.