Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Cars are smarter than the driver

There are two new technologies that are making their way into mainstream automobiles and will soon probably be in all new cars. Nissan has a package as part of its navigation system that tracks fuel efficiency and how you drive compared with others in the same type of car. This seems like it can be a very cheap and effective way to dramatically improve fuel efficiency. Nissan claims around 25% gains in economy. Of course, the success of this device relies on the idea that people want to increase their fuel efficiency. I'm not so sure this is universal, but hopefully enough people will want to. It seems that some people will treat the scores as something to maximize, like when a bar installs a B.A.C. blow tube and everybody in the bar tries to see how high they can get their reading.

The second thing is Volvo's new driver warning system. When a driver seems to be driving poorly and erratically, a warning light comes on suggesting that the driver needs a break. The symbol used is a cup of coffee, but if the car thinks the driver is terrible, coffee probably won't do the trick. I suppose a martini glass is too accusative for a symbol, but a cell phone and a line that says "hang up and drive" would probably get to the point most directly. I doubt people will buy a car that tells them that they are crappy drivers. Maybe Volvo could work on automated turn signals instead.
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