Offsetting fouls

The car dealer broke my brakes trying to fix them. Giving the benefit of the doubt, after 12 New England winters and more dirt roads than the average sports sedan sees the bleeder valve could have been rusted.

My loaner was a newish CTS, a nice car aside from the automatic transmission. I accelerated quickly onto Route 128, and buzz buzz.

Did I hit a rumble strip? No, the car was poking me in the butt to warn me about a dangerous white stripe on my right. I found the button to turn that off. A different buzz and prod warned me that a car passed in front while I was waiting at a stop sign. That required a different control to disable.

Yet another alert warned me that I was about to back over a leaf. Sorry, robot, that leaf had it coming.

I never did figure out what the alarm when I started the car was for.

When I last started a new job I was rewarded with dozens of machine-generated emails per day warning me of problems I had no control over. I played my coworkers William Shatner as the manic moonbase commander in Airplane II.

False alarms are the same as no alarms. The Deepwater Horizon blew up because the crew shut down the overly-noisy alarms.

Mostly these alarms seem to be like 55 mph highway speed limits. They assure lawyers that no matter who is really at fault, the driver can be blamed.

Why can’t I just press a button?

The new CTS needs alarms, not false alarms but reliable ones. The other personality of the car’s computer wants you to crash.

The Cadillac “CUE” system is designed to be as distracting as typing on a phone. It’s not just accidentally as distracting as a phone. According to the marketing material it was meant to be like a phone.

It’s a touch screen instead of buttons, the first design flaw. It’s a touch screen that doesn’t wake up until your finger gets close, the second design flaw. I couldn’t aim for a button and hit it in one movement. I had to move my hand close, wait for the “proximity-sensing touch-screen task bar” to notice me, read the screen to find what buttons had appeared where, and then make a second movement to hit one.

That occupied my attention for a while. Finally I gave up and decided I wasn’t going to get any digital sound. One MP3 player didn’t register at all, and the system consistently crashed after 15 minutes — or 230 microseconds — trying to play my iPod. Finding a radio station I like meant fighting with a computer, because turning a dial is too simple for the modern world.

I waited for the return of my 2004 model in silence.

And, Mr. Hyperactive Robot inside the dash, please stop saying “please” every time you give driving directions. It doesn’t make you sound human or polite. It just wastes my time.

You say please when you’re asking me to do something for you. “Please don’t stick that screwdriver into my CPU.”

You don’t say please when you’re doing something for me. “Turn right in 500 feet. Arriving at the car crusher facility on your left.”

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

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