18 May 2008
Driver Buddy

Do you want to have a conversation with your car, or perhaps an invisible passenger riding shotgun (if a talking car freaks you out too much)?

Years ago, Stanford communication and sociology researcher Clifford Nass wondered why some people treated their computers as humans, instead of machines, a question that led him down a path of interesting research. Now he wonders about drivers willing to have personal conversations with the artificial voice in their cars—and what will become of the secrets the humans share with their four-wheeled friends.

Dan Stober, Professor studies what cars can learn from drivers’ words, Stanford News Service

The article discusses the difficulty in choosing just the right voice and tone. Many drivers became angry and actually drove worse when their car cautioned them about impared or inattentive driving. Another example was that BMW “had to have a product recall, because male German drivers wouldn’t take directions from a female voice”. I don’t think any voice that was offering dining or shopping suggestions would prevent me from plunging a sharp screwdriver into it’s control module.

In the Technocrat article where I discovered this topic, ed.z suggested a Klingon option: That Lexus just splashed mud on us and has sullied our honor! I suggest we use the chaingun with HE shells!.

The darker side, beyond just being annoying, is the information gathering potential of modern vehicles. Voice-controlled devices, GPS tracking, and now the seduction of candid conversation. A lot of entities would be interested in tapping into your car’s data (whether live or archived) — “insurance companies, advertisers, government agencies, your boss and perhaps your spouse”.

“If you think about it, your car could know a heck of a lot about you,” Nass said in an interview. “It can know where you go, and when. It can know your preferences in music, your preferences in news, your preferences in sports, your eating preferences and your purchasing preferences.

A final note — Nass observed that “[d]epressed drivers drive better when their car speaks as if it, too, were feeling down”. I’m not one of those people who name their cars, but maybe I’ll call my next car “Marvin“.

image (cropped): Arroww, KITT1.jpg, Wikipedia

Category: Life-Society, Sci-Tech
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