December 18, 2014

Smart cars might not be smart idea

Posted

I always have people ask me why I do not have a GPS in my car. I’m not quite sure why they ask me, because I always have a compass and a map. Because I possess the rudimentary skills of a basic cartographer means I do not need satellite help.

Now, in the north woods of Michigan, I have realized that a GPS might help now and then when I am trying to get somewhere in a hurry to cover a story. This is especially true when covering counties where street names change when you drive 15 feet. What exactly am I supposed to call the road that goes through the center of Mio — Mount Tom Road, M-33 or Morenci Avenue?

I have been told that having a GPS might help with that situation. I beg to differ. I have been misguided by GPS units before. I know lots of other people who have been led astray by this marvel of modern technology. I think the most recent example was when I was trying to get to a friend’s wedding rehearsal.

I was driving and the girl I was dating at the time had her GPS stuck to the windshield telling me where to go. We cruised along on the highway heading into the suburbs of Chicago and everything was fine. Once we got into Geneva, though, we got mixed messages from the GPS and it told us to go this way and that. The moment I put the thing away was after it told me to, “Go off road and arrive at the church.” 

I glanced at the girl riding patiently in the passenger seat of her own car with a look that asked if I could take her car through some suburbanite’s lawn, and the look I got back told me to get out the map. We found our way there on our own. 

After the rehearsal dinner, we decided the groom had not had a bachelor party and took him to a bar. After feeding him drinks (which the pastor told us not to do) I soberly drove him home. 

His directions through town and back out to his apartment, although slightly slurred, were better than any computerized unit I could hope for. There was only one time I had to turn around because I missed a turn when he told me about it too late.

Funny story aside, I am concerned about our society’s addiction to technology for this reason: I read a story recently that states are approving fully automated cars.

These cars use GPS units to navigate streets and avoid other cars in city settings. I think this is great on one hand. People going out to bars might someday be able to climb into their cars, take a nap and wake up at home, where they can finish sleeping it off without killing someone.

On the other hand, have you lived in a rural area? Have you seen the animals jumping out in the road at night? 

“We will put sensors on the cars so they avoid hitting things.” I wish I could use a word stronger than “phooey” when describing this situation. 

Their modern technology cannot get me somewhere better than an intoxicated groom about to be led to the slaughter — why would I trust their automated cars?

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