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Whatever Happened to *Driving*? Nissan’s Mind-reading Car Adventures

From yesterday’s UK Guardian newspaper: “Mind-reading car could drive you round the bend

This being a blog loosely focused on cars and driving, it seemed almost obligatory to flag this article. What Nissan is working on, in a nutshell, is technology whereby your car reads your brain in an attempt to anticipate your next move. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard enough time with adaptive automatic transmissions that adjust shift points and behavior on the basis of my driving patterns! I certainly don’t need my car trying to think ahead for me.

They say that to some extent the technology already exists for jet fighters. I don’t fly a jet fighter, and maybe in a jet fighter flying at Mach 4 I’d want something helping me think, but as a driver in a car I want 100% control. I want to make the choices – good or bad – that affect what my car does. That’s my responsibility.. Does anyone remember responsibility? It’s that concept that we are in charge of our actions and the results of those actions. It’s a lost art, responsibility. We should have seen this coming – starting with those adaptive transmissions I mentioned earlier. Then there was the self-parking car – I think it was Lexus that started that. “Can’t park your car? Let us do it for you…” Of course, if you ever saw the Top Gear segment on self-parking technology, you know that it isn’t as easy nor as intuitive as it appears. Garbage in, garbage out, as they say. Then there were the Mercedes-Benz commercials with folks talking about how their Mercedes saved their life. How? By paying attention WHEN YOU WEREN’T. Again, responsibility folks.

There is a part of me that would love to mess with this stuff, though, if only to see whether I could psyche it out.

“Just kidding.”

“Brake. Don’t brake. Brake. Don’t brake.”

Better yet, what if you’re just a genuinely bad person ? You could be driving down the road and see a little old lady crossing the street – what if your instinct was to speed up and run her over? How many points is that? Or maybe it’s your ex-wife who slept with your boss during the company Christmas party crossing the street. Can you really be blamed for what the car interpreted that you wanted it to do?

No thanks. If and when this goes mainstream I’ll be buying old, and accepting responsibility and accountability for my actions. Not to mention being in control of my car, and maybe even having some fun behind the wheel! For my money, they could have stopped adding technology to cars after about 1985. Maybe 1990. After that, cost-cutting, Big Brother, and the thought police got into the game. Oh, and did you hear the one about OnStar? Heh.

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