Revealing the Scary Smart Car that Almost Got Me

Interior vie of the Scary Smart Car that almost got me by Carol Schiraldi of Carol's Little World.
“Step Inside” by Carol Schiraldi, iPhone image, 2024

In personal news, it’s that time again. Yes, it’s time for me to play the great state inspection lottery. You know how much I love this game, right? Oh the horror! This year going into it, I knew I was in for a doozy. You see it’s been a while since I had anything repaired, what with the great pandemic and all, so I was expecting the worst. My expectations were not unfounded, as I wound up having to replace a bunch of items and pony up for some repair work.

A Simple Appointment

It started out easy enough. I made the appointment in the early afternoon, thinking it might just be an oil change and so I would wait for the buggy in the lobby. My car place has a wonderful lobby. They have a coffee machine, a large screen TV, and a lot of magazines, not to mention an a/c and heater that work. In fact, I’m always afraid going in there as the chairs are also so comfortable I live in fear of falling asleep. One of my greatest fears is that I’ll fall asleep and wake up sometime around midnight just as the cleaning crew comes in to vacuum.

The Loaner Makes an Appearance

This time around, I was not afforded the opportunity to settle in for too long. Almost as soon as I snuggled up with a magazine and a fresh cup of coffee (which was tasty by the way-somehow my car place has a machine that makes coffee you can actually drink) I was alerted to the fact that my car would need more work. “It’s going to be a couple of hours,” they said, “you can come back later or tomorrow to pick it up.” Ah, but the trouble is I only have one car so I would have to wait. “No problem,” they said, “we can give you a loaner.”

The loaner as it turns out was a much newer version of my car. It had all kinds of fancy bells and whistles, with lots of technology, some of it even in odd places. Don’t get me wrong, it had some great features too. The “lane assist” change thing? Yeah, that’s a keeper right there. Loved it! A little yellow light came on whenever another vehicle flanked you so you would know not to change lanes. The light was just in the right spot, so that you could easily see it but it wasn’t too distracting in case you didn’t want to change lanes.

The center console had all kind of buttons, not the gear lever type of shifting device I’m used to with my car. There was a button for P and one for D and then there was their odd recessed button for reverse. Makes sense, since you would not want a toddler or some such to accidentally hit the “reverse” button while driving down the highway. I must confess, I did find the buttons to be a bit odd. The center console had a lot of charging spots, and was even covered. I had to push a button to get a “whoosh” of a noise and open up the center console just enough to slide my water bottle in there. Crazy times in the land of electronica, for sure.

I kind of blame Tesla for all of this. I mean, the good folks at Tesla have added so many electronic improvements into vehicles nowadays that all of the other car manufacturers are struggling to keep up the pace. It seems like if you don’t have electronic floor mats, which automagically recharge themselves as you drive, you can’t even sell a vehicle anymore.

The Loaner Speaks

Back to my loaner. As I got in, it had a technology screen in the middle of the console and I started to adjust the seat so I could reach the pedals. Almost instantly, the car started making noises at me. It was unhappy. I could not tell why. I guess it’s safe to say I don’t speak, “smart car” and needed a translator. As it turns out, after a bit more fiddling, I noticed the dash board had lit up indicating my seat belt was not on. Oh, you are so not allowed to do that, let me tell you! That’s a surefire way to get it to honk at you.

Dashboard view of smart car showing seat belt indicator happy, along with speed limit sign, by Carol Schiraldi of Carol's Little World
“Dashboard View” by Carol Schiraldi, iPhone image, 2024

Somehow, I managed to adjust the seats and get the car started. It drove very well, I must admit, it was a nice ride. The steering wheel was especially comfortable but I must confess the technology was a bit wild. I felt almost like I was in a time machine or some such. The dashboard had an indicator of the speed limit so, as you drove, it changed to tell you what the limit was. The lane change indicator lights came on and off as you were flanked by other vehicles on the road, so you knew when to pass (or not.) I didn’t dare try the radio but I could tell it was hooked up with all kinds of XM Satellite related items. You could probably beam in music from Mars in this thing. There were ports and plugs everywhere, bluetooth everything, charging pads in all sorts of odd places, and little happy (or unhappy) noises as I drove.

As I made my way home, I thought about all of the technology rolling along with me. As a child, cars basically had a key for the engine and one for the trunk. You were lucky to have a radio. FM was a special treat! These days, it’s almost like a rolling computer system in there. There’s more technology than there is mechanical apparatus. Everything is computerized. I must confess, it almost made me long for an old ’65 Mustang (or some such.) I mean, the tech is great but it’s almost getting a bit too smart for my liking (in some aspects anyway.)

Let’s Have a Conversation

When I got home, I texted my sister, to tell her about this crazy vehicle. She laughed at it and asked a bunch of questions. “Oh no! You didn’t get one of those smart cars, did you?”

“Yes, why yes I did! It even tells you the speed limit,” I replied.

“What happens if you speed or like drink and drive? Does it tell the cop when they pull you over? ‘Officer, she was going 97.5 in a 30, give her a ticket and a drunk test. Save me!’ or does it just honk unhappy noises at you?”

“It’s got a lot of unhappy noises but I don’t think it reports back to base. Yet. I mean, that might be next year’s model.”

She suggested I not sleep near it. My house, you see, has the garage pointing at the bedroom. This made for a restless night, as I wasn’t sure if it would launch itself into gear and kill me as I slept. I was reminded of my early days with a Tivo device that tried to kill me. This was not far from it. If they ever made a remake of the Christine evil car movie, I suspect they will use one of these smart cars rather than an old Plymouth. If you’re thinking about a smart car, I have to confess they have some great features. It might be worth it. Than again, I would watch where I sleep! Those red lights might not be from the good side of the street, if you catch what I am saying here.

Red tail lights on a car, photo by Carol Schiraldi of Carol's Little World.
“Tail Lights” by Carol Schiraldi, iPhone image, 2024

Until next time…

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