Thursday, 25 March 2010

Intelligent cars

I’ve been watching a documentary titled Toyota Total Recall which, despite it’s humorous title, covers a very serious and sticky problem for Toyota (and I’m not just talking gas pedals).

I’ve seen that Toyota initially recalled vehicles because of a floormat issue, then because of a sticky accelerator pedal issue and then on a smaller number of vehicles because of a braking problem.

And then I saw something interesting.  Steve Wozniak of Apple fame was interviewed explaining that he thought that the real issue maybe software or electronics related.  A lawyer representing families of those who died in Toyota accidents seemed to be indicating that he believed this might be the case too.

Then some clever bloke explained in a completely patronising fashion that these days cars are operated by computers and that when you put your foot on the accelerator you’re telling the computer you want to go faster.

So, bearing all of this in mind, I thought I’d share something that happened to me today in my Ford Kuga.

My Kuga has a power start button.  It’s a piece of kit that negates the need to put a key in the ignition.  The car somehow knows the keys are in the vehicle (clever electronics) and to start the car the driver just pushes the power button (for safety reasons the clutch needs to be depressed at the same time).

To turn the car off is even simpler.  Just press the power button – done.

The car started without issue and I started driving to work.  I’m not quite sure why but the radio wasn’t on.  This is unusual for me as I almost always drive listening to the radio.  After negotiating a couple of junctions I thought I needed radio but I was approaching a roundabout so needed to think quickly.

I pushed a button quickly to turn the radio on.  Maybe I didn’t have enough caffeine before I left the house because I actually hit the POWER BUTTON.

Arghhh PANIC!

Except don’t panic because I was driving a Ford, engineered by Ford engineers and, just like a Toyota, it didn’t stop.  But that’s OK because I didn’t want to stop, I just wanted to turn the radio on.  The car knew I was only kidding when I pushed the power button.  It wasn’t clever enough to know that I wanted to turn the radio on but that level of knowledge would be akin to the psychic powers of Derek Akorah (or not, because Akorah is a scam artist).

I realised my mistake and pressed the radio button and everything was tickety boo, fine and dandy.

I’m not sure there’s a moral to this story, except perhaps “Pay attention when you’re in charge of a car” or “If I offer you a lift, be afraid, be very afraid.” 


midl said...

Funny enough I did exactly the same thing yesterday, only difference I wanted to make a phone call and hit the power button instead of the phone button. My heart went in my mouth thinking I had turned it off on the A127 but it kept going...

Ann said...

Good job cars are designed with us in mind