receive information from head-up displays without removing
their eyes from the road (Photo: General Motors)
too far down the road, the kinds of technologies Alan learned about
in "Cars That Think" will be commonplace in our vehicles. Tag along
on an imaginary ride in the not-too-distant future to see what a
driver's life might be like before too long. All the features mentioned
in this fictitious tale really are under development or available
on car lots now...
set, go, it's time for the mad rush of the evening commute as performed
by me at the helm of the family carpool. First stop daycare
center. I charge through the front door, lingering long enough only
to pluck my own toddler from the sea of waiting children. I carry
her out to the car with no free hands, the automatic
keyless entry is quite helpful. I love how the car just senses
that I am nearby ok, senses that my key fob is nearby and considerately
pops the door open for us. I fasten baby into her car seat and hit
the road. Next stop to pickup the other two kids after their sports
camera in the back of the vehicle sends a clear picture
of what's happening out of view behind the driver. Guide
lines can help maneuver in tight spots.
the school with no problems. The crowded parking lot, however, is
another story. I navigate toward the playing fields, inching around
groups of pint-sized athletes and proud parents. I rely on the car's
radar and camera object detection system to ensure I am not
squashing any wayward soccer balls. I don't know how people maneuvered
in this kind of tight situation before they were able to have a
clear view right on the dashboard of what's happening behind
and beside the car. I turn to my secret crutch, the rear parking
assist, and follow its guiding lines on the dashboard screen,
superimposed on a video image of what's behind us, as I ease into
a parking spot.
front passenger door flies open as my son and daughter tussle over
who gets to sit in the front seat. I attempt to settle things with
a decisive, "Claire, you are in the back. Michael, you can be in
front until we pick up dad." The grumbling continues, and I see
no move toward the backseat. "Claire, you're still too light to
sit in the front. Remember the airbag is suppressed when
you sit up here? It's just not as safe."
used to my being a stickler for safety, and they take their assigned
seats. The few times Claire has been allowed to sit in front, the
airbag has turned itself off since she has not yet passed the 100
pound threshold. With the airbag suppressed she doesn't run the
risk of being hurt by it in an accident, but the passenger in that
seat then doesn't have the advantage of being protected by it either.
settles down and I pull out into the rush hour traffic. I sneak
a peak at the dashboard screen that displays the camera picture
of the sleeping baby, in her rear-facing car seat. I return my attention
to the front and see Michael is fiddling with the navigation
system. "So we're getting dad now right?" he asks. A route pops
up on the dashboard screen with Iggy's Ice Cream prominently displayed
as a stop along the way. "Looks like this is the best way to go,"
he says innocently. "And we can stop off and get a snack." We do
not have time for a non-nutritious ice cream stop. "I don't think
so," I tell them, briskly tapping the screen for an alternate route.
"We are going to take the highway, which will be quicker, and we
will be home sooner for dinner." Groaning ensues. I silently wonder
when was the last time I looked at a map that wasn't part of the
computerized navigation system. There really isn't much point in
planning ahead since this ingenious computer always knows where
we are and how to get where we want to go even where the
closest ice cream shops are along the way. "How's the traffic on
the highway?" I ask the computer. "Traffic is heavy but moving well
along your route," it answers in its efficient voice.
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