The digi-world offers antidotes to road rage


POSTED: Monday, March 16, 2009

Late Thursday night some SUV-driving goon with a blind spot as glaring as his misspent youth almost slammed into me—to the extent that a Volkswagen beetle is an extension of me—while backing his hugeness out of a drugstore stall.

My dilating pupils provided a Hitchcock zoom to his “;Real Men Weld”; bumper sticker.

Something about that, combined with the furry forearm dangling out the window, told me honking would only overload his circuits, so I devoted my instincts to shifting in reverse, glancing in my rearview mirror and jutting backward, avoiding the assault by a mere whisper.

Sasquatch then lumbered away. Paleontologists will tell you there hasn't been a creature on Earth this oblivious to a beetle on its tail since the 30-foot-tall, 32-ton Apatosaurus some 150 million years ago.

I couldn't jump out and shout expletives because I was overwhelmed by near religious relief, having stopped just short of that thin line between me and the fender-bendered parallel universe I averted.

We've all been there. Uninsured motorist. Deductibles. Insurance rate hikes. Repair estimates. A wife screaming, “;You wouldn't have needed to go the drugstore in the first place if you had just thrown out that 6-day-old pizza like I told you to!”;

Sure, I describe my antagonist stereotypically. It might even be construed as racist, if at any point I had been in a position to know what race he was. But adrenaline does that to you, mowing over kumbaya genes to power up tribal, survival ones.

It's an ugly place to be. I'm surprised I could gather myself well enough to still go in for my Pepto-Bismol.

But thankfully, now or in the near future, there are things Digital Slobs can do to further pad the buffer zone between themselves and harsh road realities.

Parkingsensors.net has a variety of simple devices that attach to front and rear bumpers to alert drivers with audible proximity alerts while backing up or parallel parking.

And Gizmag.com reported last week on a new hyperintelligent system that takes over the throttle and brakes of a car. Called Sentience, the software links data from smart phones to your car, for point-to-point commuting, while employing inside information on traffic flows and the timing of stoplights to cut down on fuel consumption. Hopefully, it will operate without a cell connection as well. Otherwise “;breaking up”; while going through a tunnel might take on a more literal meaning.

Also, how many accidents happen while fiddling with the radio or air conditioner? My life was no doubt been saved many times because I was wise enough to have a first car without such death-trap luxuries. Prom date? No. Long life regretting no prom date? You bet.

But Blogs.cars.com reports Toyota is changing that equation with its 2010 Prius, a hybrid that will come standard with Touch Tracer Displays—digital overlays that appear next to the speedometer—and a steering wheel with buttons to control it all without having to adjust our line of sight. While it might be worth risking our lives to turn off Lady GaGa's “;Poker Face,”; soon it will no longer be necessary.


Subscribe to columnist Curt Brandao's Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/digitalslob.