Tag Archives: computer

Illuminated Dash Gauges, Part Deux

Mood lighting.

Mood lighting.

I wrote about illuminated dash gauges a while ago saying it’s rather dumb. I still think it’s dumb, but I realized it’s because the gauges sit farther in the dashboard so it is darker and harder to glance so there is somewhat of a reasoning behind it. Volkswagen seems to have an interesting solution in getting people to turn on their headlights. If the headlight switch is set to “Off” and it is dark, the cluster illumination is automatically turned off. If it is bright enough outside, the gauge is illuminated as normal even if the headlight switch is in the “Off” position. Now to accomplish this, there is a light sensor in the cluster to measure interior darkness even on models without automatic headlights. It seems like an over-engineered solution, but it works with what people are used to for ages: it’s too dark to read so turn on a light. No extra thinking required! Brilliant!

The Crown Vic

This post is a bit lengthy, but it makes up for the days I’ve skipped writing. 😛

Crown Victoria

Look at that mug!

The Ford Crown Victoria may be an outdated dinosaur of a car in terms of technology, but it is a car that intimidates other drivers due to the fact that it was the only car that was used in police fleets for over a decade. Ford stopped selling the Crown Victoria to civilians a few years ago so all recent Crown Vics have been sold to fleets. I happen to get one for a rental car and it was such a pleasure to drive.

Junk in the trunk

When you come across this your foot immediately hovers the brake pedal

The newest 2011 Crown Victoria has a black rear panel between the taillights like the Police Interceptor (normal civilian models have a body-colored panel) which makes this the perfect car for being mistaken for a police car. Unfortunately, the trick only works if the person is approaching from the rear because this car doesn’t have the black Police Interceptor grille (it has the normal chrome grille).

It was quite fun to toy with people. Most people would be too afraid to pass me until they got closer and saw that it was not a police car. It was also nice that the car slips under the radar because it was so official looking. The only real thing that stuck out was that it was red. It’s ironic because they say red cars attract the attention of cops, but it’s a Crown Victoria which means it’s the least likely car to be pulled over. Luckily, the fact that it was a Crown Vic outweighed it being red.

I felt so high and mighty cruising down the road. It wasn’t because it felt like I was driving a living room (the leather seats could very well be made by La-Z-Boy), but because everyone was too afraid to drive terribly around me. Since I was not driving five under, no one assumed that I was some old-timer so they had to be cautious around me. I know I’d do the same. I have never felt such a power trip, even when driving a pickup truck or SUV. I was the king of road rolling in a comfy fortress.

Besides feeling so assertive, I also felt as if I was in a time warp. I felt like I was a typical ’60s traveler. It was quite refreshing to drive a car again where I could see the hood! The last cars I drove where I could see the hood was an ’87 Chrysler Fifth Avenue and am ’88 Oldsmobile Delta 88 which says how much car design has progressed. Seeing the hood always reminds me that I am piloting a real car. New cars with sloped hoods and giant windshields remove the element of driving a giant mechanical beast and make it more like piloting a sterile spaceship.

The car had a CD player, but who brings CDs with them on a trip anymore? Unfortunately, there was no way to hook up my phone to play my music through the car’s stereo so I just listened to FM radio. It wasn’t bad as there were plenty of stations around to pick from. Listening to FM radio always makes me feel at-home. The music is the same, but the ads are different. The different ads catered to the residents always make me feel like I’m already a local there. I had to tune to a new station every time one dropped out as I moved from town to town, but it wasn’t bothersome.

Look at me, I’m rambling, but the point is I felt like the quintessential American of decades past sitting on a sprawling leather bench cruising in my classic American sedan through the rolling hills of green and skies of blue. To further the illusion, I was dressed in my nice clothes (collared shirt, tie, and slacks) for an event. I was only missing my fedora. I’m romanticizing it, but this car is a handsome time machine.

I felt so sad turning in the car back to the rental agency. I had my fun, but I felt it wasn’t over yet. It was a pleasure to drive as it was a smooth cruiser that commanded people’s attention. If I ever get a large enough garage for a fleet of cars, I’d have a Crown Vic in there for sure.

BMW Seatbelt

Here I thought the Honda headlight reminder chime was the most girly sounding chime I’ve heard. Nope, this BMW takes that cake! Besides the feminine chime, this feature that hands you the seatbelt is also as emasculating. It’s a new twist on the automatic seatbelts, but at least these don’t choke you to death. I do see that it’s very practical and is appropriate in a luxury car, but it’s like the car is “aware” and hands you the seatbelt as a passive suggestion to buckle up. It’s almost creepy. It’s like your toilet wiping your butt automatically after you finished pooping. While it sounds great, it’s a bit uncomforting that it knows you’re done pooping and wants to wipe. Do we really need or want this?

German researchers drive car with their minds

Link to article on Jalopnik

Researchers in Germany have started working on a system that allows a driver to mind-control their car. The driver wears a headset that measures certain brainwaves via electromagnetic pulses. The system responds only to commands of accelerate, brake, turn left, and turn right. It appears from the video that the system is controlling the car’s computer and that is how it is able to apply the gas and brake and manipulate the steering wheel (since new cars have electronic brake/gas pedals and steering wheel).

The system seems cool in an Utopian world where everyone is on their best behavior and follows the rules, but in the real world the system would not fly. Think about all the idiots you see on the road distracted by their cell phones, energy drink, and breakfast tacos. Do you really think they have the brain capacity to operate their vehicle by thinking let alone unconsciously driving as they are now? While it is inherently safe in the fact that your car isn’t going to go psycho on you while you’re listening to Iron Maiden and raging at other drivers as the system requires you to think in terms of go, stop, and turn. We do all of that naturally without thinking about “I need to move the steering wheel 15 degrees to the left and apply brake 10% so I must move my arm X inches and move my leg Y inches, but not too fast because I don’t want to flip the vehicle”. That would be way too much work for the average person driving to work or soccer practice.

While this is a cool experiment, it should only stay as a cool experiment. People don’t think like computers and it’ll be a long way before a computer thinks like a human despite what you see in the media.