Another View: Are we being judged by our cars?

By: Denis Golemis, special to the Herald
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Our red family car is becoming a tad too judgmental of late.

When turned off, its dash displays the MPG ratio for that trip. If it approves, “EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT” will flash on its screen. Lately, it sometimes fails to say anything; just a blank screen. Was I speeding? Braking too hard? Nothing. It’s making me feel bad. When a relationship like this goes bad, it’s best to cut ties and look for a new relationship.

I am now in the market for a new car. Not so much as a result of Red’s insulting grading system, or that it isn’t performing well or requires repairs; but rather because of the startling new safety features incorporated in the new 2013 models. I never knew that I needed these systems. Now, knowing that they exist, they have become “must have” equipment.

New cars have electronic stability control, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping, backup camera with sound alarm, 10 airbags, parallel parking assistance and even more goodies, such as adaptive cruise control and brake assist. In some cases, when you’re about to do something stupid, the steering wheel will shake to alert you.

In establishing a new relationship, one looks for signs of incompatibility. There is an amazing judgmental feature on one model that may dissuade me from buying it. It has a magic system that knows if you’re exhibiting signs of being drowsy. A yellow symbol appears on the dashboard screen. How it does this I cannot imagine, but be assured that it does. Once it makes its decision, if you continue to drive against its wishes, the drowsy symbol turns red and the screen flashes, “Rest Suggested.” Now you’re in serious trouble. I don’t know exactly what happens next, but the promotional literature says, “Additional warnings if driver does not rest.” Things have gotten out of control. No more Mr. Nice Guy. The “additional warnings” may be more severe than denial of a flashing EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT. Perhaps the sun roof quickly slides open in the cold rain and will not close until you stop, or maybe the heated seat feature becomes a hot seat feature. One thing is known: Bad things will happen.

My new blue car will have all the safety options mentioned above, except for that judgmental drowsy driver option. I don’t want any car judging my driving skills. My wife has been doing that, very well, for many, many years.