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Laughing Matters: ‘Check gauges’ a slippery slope
by Sharon
Jan 14, 2010 | 923 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Did you notice the enticing holiday deals on new automobiles? I was tempted to trade in my six-year-old Jeep except for one thing: These new cars are way too smart, and it makes me nervous.

Last week, for instance, I was driving my dad’s new Dodge and a CHECK GAUGES warning lit up on the dashboard. Alarmed, I rushed to his local service center.

The technician plugged an electronic umbilical cord into a secret spy slot under the dash, and the vehicle spilled its guts to him.

The car admitted it had a loose gas cap, which was admirable automobile etiquette. But it went on to whisper to the technician about the giant bag of Oreos in the trunk, and how many times I surreptitiously picked my nose while driving my dad’s pristine car.

Tattletale! And I’m afraid it’s only the beginning.

Take ONSTAR, for example. Currently, it can contact 911 if you hit a tree, and snigger if you lock yourself out of your car. It can also perform a complete diagnostic checkup and tell you the oil level is low and the air filter is clogged with moths.

I’m not fooled. It may be crooning CHECK GAUGES now, but soon it’ll be a bossy ONSTAR voice demanding, “Stop! I have a rock in my left rear tire. Ouch, ouch!” And the car will shudder to a stop until the gravel is pried from the tread.

I see all kinds of worrisome scenarios down the road with these electronically smarty-pants cars.

My car might complain on a rainy morning, “Ooh, I’m going to get all muddy!”

The wheels will lock up, and it’ll refuse to leave the garage.

Or I’ll get home from the store and open the trunk for my contraband ice cream, only to find my car’s thermal sensors detected a caloric emergency in the compartment and blasted the ice cream out the tailpipe, or that hidden trunk heaters clicked into melt mode on the way home.

I don’t want a car with a more advanced conscience than my own. And don’t think I’m exaggerating.

Automotive engineers are working on a prototype car that will be programmed to spy on us and communicate with other drivers and official agencies like Homeland Security.

I’m frightened. I don’t want to be hauled off by the CIA because my car’s Interior Environmental Monitor secretly notified Homeland Security about gaseous fumes in my car indicating possible bomb-making activities – when I’ve only forgotten to take my Beano.

I don’t want a precocious car!

Tell me, do we really want our vehicles to warn us that we’re coming to an intersection and should look for other cars?

Isn’t that what windshields are for? Do we really want our driving to be so digitally supervised that our own motor coordination and thinking skills shrivel like underwear in a hot dryer?

I don’t, and I’m drawing a line in the grease. Go ahead and tempt me, car dealers, but I’m keeping my old stupid Jeep!

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