Road tech ought not be in line of sight
TAKING TECH on the road sounds nutty to Digital Slobs, since the only reason we bought most of our digital gadgets was to avoid merging into the nation's Hummer-clogged transportation arteries in the first place. Speaking for myself, Domino's would have to offer me $100 to weave through traffic and pick up my own pizza, and even then, they'd probably have to throw in some free Cheesy Bread.
Thus, road tech seems counterintuitive -- like going to Red Lobster to eat a cheeseburger. Or going to Outback Steakhouse to order a salad. Or taking your laptop to Hooters to surf the Net for porn.
And no matter how you slice the spam in your inbox, Slobs know traffic flows a lot better on the Information Superhighway, even in the dial-up lane, than it does on Highway 401.
You'd have to be a lizard with his own parking spot at GEICO to completely understand how any of us make it out of rush-hour alive. Next time, look around at the sea of drivers -- chances are, one or two are drunk. Four or five got no sleep last night. Six or seven are probably in tears after catching their lover cheating on them. And no doubt at least one has to go to the bathroom really, really bad (that could be me -- probably the Cheesy Bread).
But CNET.com reports drivers talking on their cell phones are, perhaps, the most dangerous, according to a study published in Human Factors. Using a driving simulator to test different levels of distraction, three cell-phone users crashed into the virtual pace car in front of them, yet none with a 0.08 blood-alcohol level had an accident. Seems an intoxicated driver trying hard to concentrate is marginally better than a distracted, if sober, multitasking Respectable Person who's fooled himself into thinking he can do it all simultaneously.
Deep down, we sense this is true, especially as we watch drivers talking to themselves and waving their hands in the air as they whiz by us doing 90 miles per hour.
This is why Americans love giant special-effects, thrill-a-minute summer blockbuster movies -- they're so relatable to our death-defying experiences during our commutes home on a daily basis.
Last week, a Dodge Durango that was filled with soccer kids and driven by a man with a Bluetooth headset cut in front of me, then immediately slammed its brakes to turn left while two tiny midfielders stuck their tongues out at me from the not-tinted-enough rear window. From my point of view, the only difference between that SUV and the Flying Dutchman from "Pirates of the Caribbean" was an intermittent windshield wiper.
Still, if there's no safe place for gadgets of mass distraction where the rubber hits the road, there may be hope for more task-at-hand-focused technology that reduces human involvement to the bare minimum. Engadget.com reports that the self-parking option on the Toyota Prius will soon be available in the United States. For about an extra $700, the car will be able to automatically parallel park using sensors and mirrors while the driver controls only the speed of the maneuver with the brake pedal.
It seem cars are well on their way to eventually driving themselves, which may prove safer in the end -- as long as we don't let them borrow our Bluetooth headsets.