Thursday, April 9, 2009

When Does Technology go too Far?

The new Volvo XC-60. The car that stops itself.


The new City Safety feature in the new Volvo supposedly stops the car automatically if it detects that you are approaching something too quickly.

Like, it applies the brakes all by itself, with no input from the driver.

This seems a little disconcerting to me. I mean, this is total "fly by wire" stuff, where your foot and the car are not mechanically connected. You could be pressing on the gas pedal while the car is jamming on the brakes.

I can just see this thing hurtling down the highway at 70 miles an hour when it "detects" some nonexistent "obstacle" and jams on the binders, bringing you to a sudden and unexpected stop in the fast lane, only to get rear-ended by the idiot who was tailgating you and doesn't have this handy City Safety feature.

Can you say Airbus autopilot?

I knew you could...


Socialism Sucks said...

This type of 'feature' might be useful if it only engaged at very low speeds - even then, you'd be better off with a beep warning you of an obstacle than automatic braking. On the highway it looks like a recipe for total mayhem - and massive product liability suits!

Front Porch Society said...

Um, yeah....dumb idea on the part of the car maker.

Meadowlark said...

I also worry about the car that automatically rolls up in the side windows when it detects impact. Um... what if my arm is out the window? This doesn't seem like a good idea.

NannyGov, now NannyCar. Sigh.

Jen and Ryan said...

Just imagine a drunk person trying to show off his (or her) new car to someone. What a recipe for disaster!

TheBronze said...

No likey...

Officer "Smith" said...

It says the system only works below 18 MPH.

But Airbus said their autopilot would disengage if the controls were manually deflected more than a few degrees.

Computers break, and will do what they want to do.

Anonymous said...

I thot the same thing when we saw that commercial!! If I'm the one responsible or the vehicle I drive I want FULL control of it at ALL times!

Mad Jack said...

Okay, just when things cannot possibly get any more screwed up than they already are, the Swedes put their clothes back on long enough to invent a brand new way to simultaneously scare the living crap out of the passengers and cause a six car chain reaction pile up during rush hour: The automatic brake job.

I hate my new car. I hate it because I paid for it but I can't control it. I bawls me out when I don't fasten my seat belt in a timely manner, or leave my keys in the ignition, or leave the door open. I can't switch my air bag off, even though the stupid thing will deploy at 10 MPH, which is guaranteed to knock me silly if I'm lucky and break my nose and arms if I'm not. The passenger side airbag will likely kill my poor old mother, who is 85 and weighs 105 pounds, and is fragile. I spent over one hundred American dollars for a new ignition key because the stupid thing has a chip in it - for my protection, of course. The thought that I'd be capable of protecting myself appears not to have dawned on the butterfly boys in Tokyo. So what, though? I'm only the owner of the car.

The check engine light is on, and it's been on for a while now. What the light really means is check your bank balance, because it's due to drop by $500 just as soon as what ever is wrong gets fixed. If Toyota really wanted to be helpful, they'd have an automatic read out that would tell me what was wrong with the car and I could decide if and when the car needed fixing. It's my car. Right?

If I set something on the passenger seat, the car thinks someone is sitting there and complains about the seat belt not being fastened. Why can't I shut this thing off?

My car alarm goes off if I push the wrong button. Why doesn't my car alarm do something useful, like call my cell phone and tell me someone is screwing around with my car, or shoot streams of fire out the sides of the car (I saw this one being used in Africa. No fooling.) or electrify the car like a tazer or something.

Now Volvo wants to give us an auto brake system, which is certain to become standard on all cars because it's safety related and so it's... for the children.

I hate automatic transmissions. If I needed some monkey in Tokyo to tell me when to shift, I'd give up driving and take the bus. Or walk. I have a standard transmission in my Nipponese Nightmare SE, but I had to explain to nine out of ten car salesmen what a standard transmission was, and I had to keep repeating myself. One salesman insisted cars didn't come with manual transmissions, even after I pointed out that the manual transmission was listed as standard equipment. Go figure.

Now do not misjudge me here. I wear my seat belt every time I drive anywhere outside my parking lot. I mean it, too. What I want is a choice. I want the car to stop complaining and remain silent, and I want to switch the air bag off when I don't need it. I own the car, so I should be able to do this. But I can't, and any auto mechanic turns pale at the thought of actually making any of these modifications to my car.

What's wrong with me, anyway? Why can't I just get with the program?

Meadowlark said...

Mad Jack, CHOICE is the LAST thing you're going to get. The last FOUR administrations (NOT a single party) have ensured that we're living in a nanny state. And it WILL get worse.

Now go start a blog like I said ;)

Mad Jack said...

Now go start a blog like I said ;)Thank you for your kind words. I've always been tempted to start, but I'm a little afraid of the repercussions to my career when average business people read my inflammatory opinions.

Officer "Smith" said...

Well, it's really only inflammatory if they know who you are. Anonymous exercise of your First Amendment rights is a wonderful thing.

Loren Pechtel said...

A forced stop if it detects an obstacle? Sounds like heaven for carjackers.

(I've been a passenger in a bus where the driver responded to people in the road by hitting the gas--as he had been directed to do by the authorities. Since the bandits didn't have guns it was safe enough so long as you didn't stop.)