On the Road Again

30 11 2010

Okay, I’ve blogged about driving, and we’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a great driver but the roads are all crooked and everyone else on them isn’t watching where I’m going. I know you’re all working on that, some of you may be improving a little – we’ll see how that goes.

 

But today I’d like to talk about cars. Well, all vehicles really, cars pickup trucks, SUVs (you know those giant cars that carry important people around one at a time even though the things can hold six, but since they can’t stand each other they ride alone), (I’m gonna get more letters, aren’t I).

 

But enough about social and ecological responsibility

I’m talking about the short comings of the vehicles themselves. Why is it that an on-board computer can detect the slightest thing that’s gone amiss. Why can it determine that something is important enough to notify you. How is it capable of filing a code for ‘the problem’ in a memory chip and then all it does is … turns on the same idiot light for a complete engine failure that it would for the gas cap being left off.

 

I need more than that

Okay, admittedly, I’m working with a bigger challenge then many other drivers. The ADHD thing means that I’m probably late for something when that idiot-light comes on. The fact that I’m on my way means it’s important that I get there. Because I don’t know what caused the light, I’m probably going to gamble that arriving at my destination takes priority over whatever’s wrong with my car.

 

The on-board computer knows what’s wrong, but it won’t tell me. Why? Because it only speaks in code – and only to a mechanic or someone willing to buy a decoding device and have the code translated to six words … “put your gas cap on, dummy!” But couldn’t they put a screen on the dash that said that? Or just a little LED displaying the code so we could look it up in the manual. Of course, given the way owners manuals are organized, it would be listed in the index under “R” as “Read codes, how to – Appendix 17 (see Table of Contents for location of Appendixes)”.

 

So how do we fix this?

Here’s my idea, I want an option for my car called the ADHD Package. It should include an on-board computer with a voice. I ought to be able to choose the voice it uses (but only when the car is stopped and in park). The voice should randomly say things like “What’s that up ahead on the road?” and “I notice the gas is getting low.” and “There’s a school zone ahead and it’s recess time, I know you’re going to be jealous of the children getting to climb on the monkey bars but try to watch the road. ‘Kay?” and other such admonitions.

 

It also ought to start telling me, a week after I get my oil changed, when I’ll need my oil changed again so it won’t come as a big surprise. It needs to remind me that I need my snow tires on or off (for those of you in southern climes, driving through the warmer seasons with snow tires on is very hard on the softer rubber, one good summer can take five years off the life of a set of snow tires).

 

Maybe a GPS could be built in with a vocal interface. You get into the car and the computer asks “Where to?” and you tell it and it asks how long you have to get there, choosing the most scenic route that time will allow. If the GPS is sensitive enough it might also be able to say things like “oooh, I’ve always wanted to try driving on this side of the road.” or “The turn you need to make is 30 feet ahead and you’re still doing 80.”

 

Out of time

I always thought I’d been born at the wrong time, either too soon or too late. If I’d been born 100 years earlier, I’d have driven (or ridden) a horse around, they think for themselves. 100 years from now the cars will probably drive themselves. But in this day and age I’m just a frustrated and distracted guy. And I thinks that a $20,000 plus computer on wheels ought to be at least as communicative as a Commodore 64 was … don’t you?

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