About the Colony

Dizzying world of car technology

leallan@tcsn.net December 10, 2013 

Lon Allan

THE TRIBUNE

I was puttering in my garage the other day on a woodwork project. I live in a small (nine-unit) condo complex. Parked less than 40 feet away was my neighbor’s car. All of a sudden I heard it start up. I turned around to say “good morning,” but nobody was there. He came out of his house about 10 minutes later and said he just wanted to warm the car interior before he got in.

I’d seen such a thing in a TV commercial, but hadn’t paid much attention to it all. And now I’m seeing commercials for devices to close the garage door using your cellphone, turn off lights, start the coffee maker and lots more.

This is where I want to yell, “Stop the Earth, I want to get off.” I’m not ready to leave just yet, but I’m having a hard time hanging on.

Remember when you were a kid with the merry-go-round and someone would begin to spin it faster and faster? There came a point when you wanted to let go, but by then it was going too fast, so you hung on for dear life, and often walked funny when you tried to walk away when it did stop.

I’ve confessed in past columns about being the classic Luddite, those 19th century English workers who attempted to do away with laborsaving machinery by destroying it.

I’ve only purchased about four new cars in my lifetime. I generally buy used vehicles. I last bought a new car more than 30 years ago. On most of my cars I’ve been able to disable the annoying buzzer or bell when the door is open. I have finally learned to fasten my seat belt, but I generally do it while I’m driving, as an afterthought, instead of when I first get in the car.

The new cars I see on TV and that friends have purchased just about match up with predictions in those Popular Science magazines I read faithfully in the 1950s.

I worry that the center console and dashboard on new cars is getting so filled with buttons and display screens that drivers are going to be even more distracted than they are now. In fact, half the drivers I encounter can’t even use the turn signal.

Sadly, none of this technology makes the driver better or the rest of us safer from those who aren’t careful.

Hey, wait a minute, I just got it! That’s why they’re working on cars that can drive themselves.

Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net .

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