Can they read my mind yet?
Eric Peters gives us the skinny on the newer, saferer, betterer Parenting Car.
Interaction Temporarily Paused
The 2023 VW ID.4 I’m test driving this week – more about that here – isn’t just an electric car.
It is a parenting car.
It will “temporarily pause” your ability to change the radio station – which you do by using the tap/swipe cell phone interface built into the dashboard – if it thinks you have taken your eyes off the road. Which you have to do, because you cannot tell by feel what you’re doing when using a tap/swipe cell phone interface – i.e., the LCD touchscreen built into the dashboard.
Almost all new and recent-model cars have these things, chiefly because they are cheap (to install) yet look fancy.
Electronics are one of the very few things that cost less to manufacture each year and so there is more profit in selling them. LCD touchscreens have been sold to people – in cars – because people have to buy them, if they want to buy the car. It’s a great way to reduce manufacturing costs and increase profits (including via the mining of your “data,” for which you are not paid a cut).
They also “clean up” the dashboard, eliminating buttons and switches that were formerly used to control various functions, such as the heater and air conditioning.
And the audio system.
Now – in many cars – almost everything is controlled via the tap/swipe interface built into the dash, obliging you to tap and swipe. But that is distracting – just like the smartphone they say you’re not supposed to tap/swipe while driving. And so they built into the car a monitoring system that “temporarily pauses” your ability to exercise any control over the smartphone screen they built into the car – preventing you from changing the radio station, for instance – if the car thinks you are “distracted.”
It can see that – via eye-movement monitors that you can’t see unless you use a video camera. If you want to see these sensors, pan the dash area with a camera; then you’ll then see these strange metronomically blinking red lights. Those are the sensors. If they see you are looking at what you’re not supposed to – according to the car’s programming – then the car will “temporarily pause” whatever it was you were trying to do.
Like change the channel.
But not just that.
Implicit in this tech is the power to “temporarily pause” any number of things the car – and those who control it – wish to.
Acceleration, for instance.
Push down too aggressively on that pedal and the car may just push back (in fact, cars equipped with fully enabled Speed Limit Assistance Technology – as it is marketed – do exactly that). It is not even necessary, in the mechanical sense, for the car to push back on the accelerator because it is also electronic. All you’re doing when you push down on it is sending a signal that is interpreted by the computer that controls the car, which then decides to let the engine rev (or the motor spin, if the car is electric) to the degree you have requested.
But that request can easily be countermanded.
Indeed it can—along with every other thing you may wish to have the car ostensibly under your control do or not do, according to the caprice of, as Eric so rightly puts it above, those who actually DO control “your” car.
In fact, only a cpl-three years back, my beloved mother in law up in NYC returned the brand-new Mercedes SUV she had just bought to the dealership and demanded her trade-in vehicle back—a low-mileage Benz SUV no more than three years old itself—after her new one automagickally shut itself off whilst sitting becalmed in Manhattan rush-hour traffic. Doing so once was one thing, mind; however, after it happened four more times in rapid succession, no contradictory input either sought or heeded by the car, my MiL had seen enough. She hie’d herself back to the dealer and got her old ride back, which she still tootles happily around in without complaint to this very day.
And why on earth wouldn’t she have done that, prithee tell? A car whose CPU shuts the engine off in snarled traffic is NOT any vehicle you want to be trying to drive in NYC, at any time of the day or night, snarled traffic being more the rule than the exception there. In fact, a car like that constitutes a very real hazard to life and limb, given the various and sundry obstacles to the consistent flow of traffic scattered like land mines throughout all of the Five Boroughs: road construction, stoplights, insane cabbies, and the aforementioned Critical Traffic, to mention but a few.
In crowded American cities like NYC, a car that shuts itself off in traffic for “safety” purposes is actually the very antithesis of what most people understand the word “safety” to mean.
For a long time now, the Left has loudly and continuously denounced “America’s love affair with the automobile” and actively sought to engineer a permanent breakup between Americans and the cars they once held so dear to their hearts. The Left was too-keenly aware that, in a nation the size of the FUSA, the car was the very embodiment of not just mobility alone, but personal freedom. And there’s precious little they loathe more.
They’ve had dismaying success with that campaign over lo, these many years. Now, with these nagging, increasingly-meddlesome autos, they’ve just about pulled it off.