Don’t Worry About the Smoke, the Computer Says We’re Fine.

I saw a TV commercial advertising something that scared me. G.M. has had this thing called OnStar for a while in their newer vehicles. Basically, it’s a way of getting help in various situations, like if you lock your keys in your car, you crash, or you have some medical emergency while driving. You push a button and someone can speak to you and get you help. I have no problem with that, that’s a good idea. Now, they’ve instituted this self-diagnosing feature. Your car’s computer is supposed to check the car once a month and tell you if you need to take it into the shop.

Does anyone see a problem with this? If you don’t, I want you to think about this idea next time your computer crashes, hint hint. You see, boys and girls, computers can fuck up, and nobody’s a better judge of their car’s health than the driver, or another human riding in the car. They can hear the squeaks, thumps and knocks their car’s making, they can notice the oil leaking out the bottom, etc. Plus, I don’t think giving the computer a lot of control in a car, or any large object capable of movement at high speed, is a good idea. No no no, I didn’t just read one too many science fiction books. I was in a car accident that probably wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the computer in the car going heywire. Dad turned on the car, and it went straight from park to reverse. then it sped up, went straight backwards, ripped a post out of the ground and bent it, continued backwards, smashed the window of a store, and stopped. Keep in mind that dad was trying to: put the breaks on, put the car in park, turn the key off, take the key out. It kept going, and as my friend looked up from the floor where he had fallen, he saw the computer readouts on the dash were going wild. When they took the car to the shop, they had to write it off because they couldn’t figure out what was making it behave that way. It went from 0 to 40 km/h in about 3 seconds. I’m pretty sure if the computer in the car wasn’t in charge of speed control, that wouldn’t have happened.

But it’s now ok to have cars diagnosing themselves? Can’t people think anymore? Doesn’t human intervention count for anything anymore? I was ok with the oil light and the gas gauge, but this seems a little over the top. I’m just waiting for someone to try and drive with a flat tire because the green light’s on, so the car must be ok.

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