Dave, It's time to wash me. (With apologies to Stanley Kubrick)

It seems like every time I talk with my friend Rick it sparks an article. The latest topic that he brought up was that autonomous cars will let you know when they need to be washed. I kid you not.

Rick said he read it in Automotive News. A quick search on Google brought up this from Jalopnik: “On Christmas Eve, the United States Patent and Trademark Office released a patent filed by Toyota that will allow your car to sense that it’s dirty and then head off to the car wash without any human input at all.”

What the heck is next? Maybe H.A.L. will tell Dave to call his mom?

There are some things that I don’t or wouldn’t mind a car telling me. If I remember correctly years ago BMWs told you when to change the engine oil not based on mileage but on a number of parameters like miles travelled, type of driving, etc. Now that seems useful. Computing when your vehicle’s fluids need to be changed and alerting you of the need sounds like a good idea.

If your car goes off and gets itself washed is it doing it with or without your permission? How is your care going to pay for the wash? Will your car have its own credit card or will it be like Apple Pay? Will your license plate be scanned and a bill sent to your home? How will your car decide which wash option to get? My mind boggles at the mere thought.

But isn’t the level of dirtiness subjective? I live in an area where there is often a lot of dust. Would my car tell me to wash it daily? How about all those cars in snow country? What would my car do if I didn’t wash it? Is Big Brother going to come and get you for car abuse?

After talking about this our conversation turned to over facets of modern cars we take exception with. Like connectivity.

Connectivity is one of those words that can mean something different depending on who uses it. Basically it means your car is connected to something. For most people it means your car is connected to your smart phone.

How did connectivity become a selling point for a car? Most people might think connectivity means connecting your smart phone and all its features to your car. Not an autonomous car but one a real person drives. Don’t get me wrong I like some tech in a car; I connect my phone to most of the new cars I test. I still don’t answer many calls though. I’ve found that even when it is totally hands free I don’t fully concentrate on the job at hand – DRIVING!

I also connect my phone so I can listen to the tunes I’ve loaded onto it. At times I use the routing feature. But I do not use my social media when I drive. That is just too distracting.

But think about it – your cell phone is also connected to the outside world. Everything you do with your cell phone can be monitored by intelligence agencies. I’m not saying they do so but they could. Snowden told us so.

Years ago when vehicle monitoring programs like OnStar first appeared there were some who worried that it would be used to ‘spy’ on vehicles. I saw and heard comments about how ‘they’ would void your warranty because they knew when you were racing or if you weren’t following the maintenance schedule. Yet now we all want to be connected? What happened to your paranoia?

In the early to mid-2000s Oregon and Maryland equipped some vehicles, primarily taxi cabs, with transponders that would collect real time emissions information. This was seen by some as a massive intrusion on their right to privacy. 

I sat on the California Inspection and Maintenance Review Committee (IMRC, a government committee to make recommendations on the Smog Inspection Program) and we discussed the use of transponders. It seemed like a good idea but one that went nowhere mostly due to the fear of ‘Big Brother’.

Maybe, just maybe, if your car is totally driverless connecting to the Internet would be okay. Although connected cars come with warnings about safe driving (many, if not all, vehicles with built in GPS will not allow you to access the keyboard unless the vehicle is stationary) that doesn’t stop many drivers from logging on. It was bad enough to see drivers talking on the phone and texting but now they can check their email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, stock portfolio, whatever all while exceeding the speed limit. Thanks for nothing.


Cindy Meitle said…
GREAT article Bruce! What happens when you go to get in your car and it's "gone" because it took a required jaunt to the local carwash? What happens when the car is asked if it needs "buffing" and the car says yes? Next thing you know, your car and thousands of other cars are lining up outside the carwash first thing every morning, honking, because they haven't opened yet! Everyone is repeatedly late for work, all because their connected car has needs too. Then what? (Insert theme from Twilight Zone)

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