Minding Your Mood and your Eyeballs

Memory seats are nice. But how about mood minders? In-car sensors that assess your state of mind via eye movements, facial expressions, gestures — even your rising (or falling) heartbeat — and adjust the car accordingly?

Some of this is already here.

Some new cars come standard with “drowsy driver” monitoring systems. Cameras embedded in the dash watch you as you drive; if the system thinks you’re getting heavy-lidded or distracted, a chime will sound and a warning light (it’s often a coffee cup symbol) comes on.

Soon, it’ll be much more than just a light and a chime.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the next Great Leap Forward was on display. In addition to cameras watching you, infra-red sensors will soon register your metabolic rate as an indicator of agitation, and if the car decides you’re too angry to drive, it pulls itself over. 

Be sure to maintain a vapid smile of contentment at all times—like Winston in Orwell’s 1984—though even that might not be enough if the car can tell how you’re feeling inside, something even Orwell thought impossible back in 1948 when the novel was written.

This isn’t a dystopian vision. It’s actuality.

Some new cars know it’s you specifically behind the wheel. Not just Driver A. Facial recognition tech scans and identifies you and then adjusts the seats and so on accordingly.

The car keeps track of your preferences and probably also your opinions. Think twice about what you say because there may be more than just you and your passenger in the car and in on the conversation.

Soon, everything that goes on in a new car will be open source.

And so much more.

At CES 2020, evolutions of the tech already deployed were on display. In addition to adjusting the seats, in-car AI can also adjust the drive— mellowing out the suspension settings for more comfort if the car senses your fatigue, increasing or decreasing airflow to perk you up, and even auto-shade parts of the windshield to reduce glare on you, specifically.

It can make recommendations about where to eat when it senses you are hungry, and which route is best (according to its judgement).

All of this is being presented or spoon fed to “consumers” (a contemptuous term that ought to have aroused anger when it began to replace buyers some 30 or so years ago) as just another convenience. BMW’s i Interaction EASE, for instance.

Yes, but for whom?

It is certainly convenient for the corporate-government nexus (which includes the insurance mafia but so much more) to be able to easily watch and hear and take note of everything you’re doing in your car and to know how you’re feeling about it.

Don’t get mad now!

It is the same sort of convenience parents, who want to keep track of their children at all times, desire to have. Prison guards also want to keep track of their inmates, too.

It doesn’t seem to occur to the vapid-smilers reporting on all the latest wonders that a car that can pull itself over because it’s decided you’re too drowsy or angry to drive can also pull you over for other reasons.

For any reason.

And whenever it likes.

It can also adjust your driving, regardless of your mood. This is also coming—is already here.

Many new cars have speed limit “reminders” that will soon become speed limit enforcers. Right now, it’s only a flashing light in the dash. Soon, it will be an accelerator pedal that pushes back or an engine that doesn’t respond to you pushing down on the accelerator.

This has already been mandated for cars sold in Europe. It will not be confined to Europe.

Why do you suppose almost all new cars are Internet connected? 4G now and 5G soon. Not optional. It is all very convenient. You’ll be able to look up the weather, and the car will be looking up you.

All of that valuable data collected, transmitted, and sold.

They want to know everything, control everything and make a buck off everything they collect about you. They say the data collected is “secure” and won’t be “shared” in the manner of your Social Security number that will never be used “for purposes of identification.”

Look upon that thing in your garage as a kind of self-imposed passive interrogation suite with comfortable seats, a nice stereo, and ambient mood lighting.

It doesn’t beat you with truncheons, 1984 style. That is too obvious, so old school. People give up more when they’re entertained and infantilized. Give them a “free” app that comes with a trap with pretty things to look at, soothing lights and voices that tell them how very safe they’re being kept all in the cocoon of the their brand new entertainment/transportation pod.

Cars, which once incarnated autonomy, are becoming the incarnation of its opposite. This may be why so many people no longer like new cars—especially car guys.

Movement is lately confused with autonomy but they are not the same things. A Soviet bread line moved. A parade of goose-stepping North Korean soldiers moves. The bus, whenever it arrives, moves, too.

They all move without regard to your wishes. You get from A to B, certainly. Eventually. But you have no say over the how you get there and the when is entirely out of your control.

Might as well be entertained.

The autonomous cars which existed until recently were different because their movements were autonomous. They were autonomously controlled by the driver, not the car.

Nothing was monitored. If you couldn’t sleep and decided to go for a midnight drive, no one knew about it, including the car. It simply took you wherever you pointed it, as fast or as slow as you wanted to go.

The inconvenience one paid for this was having to adjust the seats oneself.



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