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Car Talk

by Stephen Lautens


November 16, 2001

With their desire to constantly live better through technology, the Japanese have come up with a new high-tech solution to road rage. They've invented a car that speaks to you when you start driving crazy and calms you down.

This real talking car is called the Pod. According to the London Observer it is being manufactured as a joint venture between Toyota and Sony. Apparently it can sense when drivers are steering erratically, speeding or slamming on the brakes. In other words, the way ninety percent of the population gets to work.

There was no indication whether the car can sense which finger a driver is waving out the window or how many different words for "idiot" can understand.

I'm personally a very calm driver. I really don't expect that honking my horn at someone really has much of a chance of making them a better person. Someone who weaves in and out of traffic, passes on the shoulder or otherwise displays the outward appearances of a four-wheeled menace is not likely to see the error of their ways because someone honks at them.

When a passenger, my wife sometimes points out drivers she thinks I should be honking at. Invariably they are men built like refrigerators with tattoos and a pit bull chained to the back seat. Granted, they may be driving erratically, and as the police like to say: "without due care and consideration for other vehicles", but I'm not about to be the one to point out the error of their ways. These tend to be the same people who have a habit of getting out of their cars at the next red light and giving you a quick lesson in the more fragile aspects of human anatomy.

I'm not convinced that after giving some nut a darn good honking any of them have ever rolled down their window and apologized for an inconsiderate lane change.

While not the saint of the highways, I like to keep my ultimate goal in mind when driving ­ getting there in one piece. And if that means giving way to a couple of Neanderthals on the way home, then I think my male ego can handle it.

All of which begs the question of who is likely to buy a car that criticizes their driving. People who consider themselves good and courteous drivers won't think they need it. Bad drivers won't want it, unless they would like the opportunity to listen to it complain. I suppose that's why Toyota has also programmed this talking car to compliment you on good driving habits. I suppose it says things like: "nice turn signal" or "thank you for not making an obscene gesture."

In addition to the compliments on your road manners, the Pod will say that it's happy to see you and is looking forward to your drive. If you haven't taken the car out for a spin for a while, it will tell you that it has missed you.

Great - just what we all need. One more family member complaining that they never see you anymore. I can hear it now:

"So where have you been?" the car will pout.

"I've been taking the bus."

"A likely story ­ you've been partying it up with that gas guzzling Jeep across the road, haven't you?"

"I've been walking to the bus stop. I swear."

"Don't lie to me. You've always liked them big and dumb. Honestly, we never talk anymore."

There is something to be said for the strong, silent type. Especially in a car.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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