Saturday, December 17, 2005

Click,Clack, and Tattling Cars

My love for NPR's "Car Talk" remains one of my quirks, along with a fondness for Cuban conga cds and orange tic tacs. Just some of the things that I like without examination. Who knows why?
Now TMPO can relate to this: I also like to drive other people's nice cars. I know, I know. I'm not a materialist and car appreciation is a guy thing, right? (joke)It goes against who I am. Really. But even hippie chicks have some weaknesses.
Once I drove my mom's beamer with Maria Callas, along a fifteen mile stretch of double ocean views on a Long Island inlet, and had to admit: I had love for a damned machine. It was smooth, it was beautiful, the sound was amazing. It's a car that I would never buy,and quite frankly my desire for it was astonishing, but humans are full of contradictions. At least I am. Sadly.
What does this have to do with politics? Or NPR?
Well it is common knowledge that BMW and other cars have technology that communicate via satellite about the status of the car. This is a value added feature, like so many other devices on these vehicles.Some people are familiar with OnStar and other such features that enable cars to interact remotely. Anyway, a caller to "Car Talk" asked about a device installed on her car as part of an insurance company research program. The insurance company had asked her to participate, and she wanted to know what types of information could be recorded from the various components of the typical dash. Interesting.
The answer? Everything. Speed, seat belt use, nature of starts and stops, acceleration. At this time, the tattling car would reveal patterns for research purposes only. But how long before Auto Insurance companies get such tracking devices turned into standard equipment? To track your behavior and adjust the rates accordingly? To see how safely and responsibly YOU interact with the item they insure. Yes, your car would be able to potentially tell them how badly you treat it. And if you obey the law. It would be able to tell your insurance company what you do even when you are not caught doing it.
Now one brother at "Car Talk" said it might not be so bad. There are crazy people.
It forces me to ask: Would such a device function as a deterrent for the crazy driver? Again it comes down to the question of balancing rights with societal good. What if tracking driving habits led to a ten percent reduction of fatalities per year? If it forced parents to buckle up babies or risk a rate hike? Would it hurt some populations more than others, say, families that share cars? Would you feel violated, watched, spied on, tracked like a kid? Would you buy a car with this if your rate were to be cut by 50%?? Would you buy into this idea?
What happens between a car and a woman is nobody's business, I am inclined to say.


Geo_Chick said...

Well I might not want one for me, but I was looking at a story about this in the paper today and thinking what a GREAT idea for your teenage driver. You could just spy on em and see how trustworthy they were. Or you could let them know it was there so they had better drive really safely. I see life saving potential here. What about as a requirement for those DUIs to have their license back (yes I know they could just drive a different car, but still). Again, it is all the slippery slope argument... If we can require him why not that guy too? And if it cut my rates 50%, I would do it. I actually drive pretty safely, I usually have my kids in the car with me and won't risk them for anything. The trouble with calling it a rate cut would be that it would become a surcharge for those unwilling to have the device in their cars. Soon instead of people thinking about the savings, people would complain about getting charged more.

Lily said...

Exactly my thinking about the insurance issue. Yes, the people that would be 'better behaved' might in fact deserve that discount but I would not get it on principle.
Sour grapes maybe: I am a shitty driver. Thankfully I have reformed in my old age from the 'ticket a week' club. I have learned to incorporate some sense of social responsibility and look at it as a sort of moral imperative. But its like the seat belt argument: I am in favor of seat belt laws but know parents that say government has no right to force good parenting. Where do we draw the line? Good popint about the slippery slope!

Geo_Chick said...

Seat belt laws and car seat laws...Well that issue is another one. In CA you are only ticketed for the seat belt if you are being pulled over for another violation. But I still think about the fact that if someone is horrible injured and ends up unable to work for the rest of their life, they are supported by our tax dollars. All the medical and their disability check, that Social Security...that all comes from our taxes. Thus, I think that gives us a right to mandate basic safety issues. Seat belts DO save lives, and prevent much more serious injury.

Now on to car seats for kids... Well here you get the Mama response...What kinda stupid idiot is still out there driving around with a kid unstrapped in?!?! I know our parents did it, but they didn't know as much as we did, they didn't have car seats as nice/safe as we do. 2 of my neighbors are firemen and they tell me that DAILY they have to scrape a baby off of the pavement. And the moms are always so sad, but OMG, the excuses...he didn't like the car seat, it was too much hassle, I couldn't afford one (there are free car seats readily available in CA with big signs up with phone numbers in all the Labor and Delivery areas of hospitals in multiple languages!), I was in a rush... It just drives me nuts. Now some say this is Darwin in action, but this is little kids! They CANNOT take care of themselves or be responsible for their own safety. My kids have always been in car seats and don't know any differently. I explained to them, when they were old enough to get it, that they were risking getting very hurt if they weren't strapped in. And as to the "I am a safe driver, it isn't dangerous" excuse...That is why they are called ACCIDENTS you fool!!! No one plans them, they are very often not your fault, you cannot control all the other drivers!

You might just be able to tell, I feel strongly about things that come to protecting children!

M. Takhallus. said...

Get away from my car, CB. Back! Back!

Lily said...

No, no. I hear you. I had this discussion with somebody who posts here, the notion of government legislating good parenting. I think the idea that it is even necessary is kind of messed up, but denial doesn't help.
And for those that do not read the bottom (looking sternly at Michael) CB has not posted. Sloppy Bloggery :)

Geo_Chick said...

LOL @ Micheal, but yeah it is really a pathetic thing that we need laws to convince parents to be concerned for their children's well being. Sigh, but it that is what it takes...

I have been working lately in some really low income schools, and you would be amazed at what is expected by the parents for the schools. These kids get breakfast, lunch, and afterschool snack from the school. Free daycare from 6am to 6pm, school uniforms, dentists visits and toothbrushes and floride pills, Eye and hearing exams, and drs referals when needed. And some of these parents will complain if any homework is sent home, or even just that they have to sign it or check it. And many of the moms with kids in the all the time day care don't work, they just don't care much about their kids. The kids are unwashed, and come in dirty clothes. I know it is hard to get to a laundry mat with all your kids in tow and no car, so I am not saying they have it easy, but still, it is just sad. And those are the same moms that will tell you it is your fault if their kid has a behavior problem, or is behind in learning, or sleeping in class even.

Welfare gives you more money for each kid up to 6 kids here. It is amazing how many of those moms suddenly discover birth control after the 6th kid. And many of them have all different dads and none of em are around anyway.

And not all the families are like that, but there are alot that are. That there are any is just too sad.

Lily said...

I too have worked in low income schools and also as a case worker in two states. I understand what you are saying about the expectations of parents, but I think that there is s ense of entitlement that is pervasive in society in general. I never found it to be empowering for people to sit at my desk and say "what will you do for me?' I would often ask what they wanted to do for themselves and what the obstacles were. I would try to work on strategies to address the obstacles: child care, a job with benefits, rent subsidies, but I did not approach it as my 'job' to do for people. And it is important for people to understand that assistance is temporary. It can be frustrating when parents blame the school. Teaching is not an easy job and I give people credit that can work effectively in such a challenging environment. This applies to other staff as well, the system. I think its important to have some boundaries within ourselves, to know what we can control and what we cannot.

tmp00 said...

For a while, there was a rental company that put a version of this into their cars, and fined the drivers for going too fast. Unfortunately for them, a TV station got hold of the news and broadcasted it, making their offices very empty when customers voted with their feet.

Would I like a break on my insurance? Sure. But shouldn't I get one anyway, since I've been driving for about three hundred years and never had a ticket? Don't we have enough electronic nannying as it is? Yes, seatbelt use is mandatory, as is strapping your kids in (and I think that people who don't use car seats in this day and age are just swill), but at what point do we draw the line? The car won't start if you aren't strapped in? They tried that in '73 and it was a everybody hated it (I start the car and then put my belt on, myself). Fuel cut-off if you are speeding? A fine if you aren't taking the most direct route? At what point are we giving up something that I personally feel can be enjoyed as a pastime (damn it, I like knowing when to downshift and accellerate out of the curves on Coldwater) to the watchful eye of Big Brother who arbitrarily decides that my little bit of fun on Mulholland is actionable because I was using thirty years of driving judgement (17 years of which is in Los Angeles) to actually know that my Honda can take that curve at 30, rather than 25?

Lily said...

Thats the tough part: where we draw the line and I guess thats why I write about these kinds of wacked out topics. These are not easy questions and you make some good points here. There's a paradox: we should treat people as capable responsible citizens and yet there is so much to show that we collectively have our heads up our asses. I mean, think about how many examples there are: from voting, to people NOT buckling babies that fly out of the car to people that can;t even handle giving their kids breakfast in the morning. At what point is it the role of LAW to solve these problems?
Maybe there can be an internet cut off for people that read too long, or a porn zapper! Consider people that water their grass too much or let their car run and waste gas...