More Digitized Idiot Proofing on Deck for 2014

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Is Detroit responsible for making sure you don’t back-up over your child? What if you don’t have a child?

Better yet, what if you know to drive

Well, it doesn’t matter. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is demanding that all new cars be fitted with back-up cameras by 2014 so as to add another layer of “for the children” cost and complexity to all new cars – like it or not, need it or not

Apparently, it’s too much to expect pahrunts to check manually that baby snots-a-lot isn’t lying like a loaf behind the bumper of the family SmooVee – and about to get a live-axle kneading by the otherwise oblivious pahrunt, who wouldn’t remember or notice the kid was there absent an LCD display accompanied by an orchestra of buzzers and chimes. The rest of us will have to have them, too – even if we don’t have kids – and even if we do have the Mad Skill needed to safely back-up a car without running over crotchfruit and other living things. 

No one knows exactly how much this’ll all cost – but $300-$600 per car is a good estimate based on what these systems currently add to the tab as optional equipment. Probably – like air bags – once every car is required to have an LCD display monitor and all the related hardware – the cost-per-car will go down some as a result of economies of scale.

But overall, cars will be getting more expensive (again) as a result of  another round of  mandatory  “safety” equipment that some of us – but by no means all of us – think every new car ought to have.

Question: Why is it that the “some of us” have this weird fetish to force the rest of us to pay for what they think we ought to have? Back-up cameras are already available as options in many new cars; those who feel the need can buy them. Why must they force those of us who don’t to buy them also? 

Air bags were once optional, too. The trouble was, almost no one was interested in buying them. So naturally, the government mandated them. And now we all have to pay for them. This has probably made air bags less expensive on a unit-cost basis, but we’re still paying a lot more for cars now that all cars have to have air bags. In effect, those who would have rather skipped the air bags and saved the money are now forced to subsidize air bags for those who do want them.

And it’ll be the same with mandatory back-up cameras. New cars will cost more; and there’ll be another potential down-the-road expense when the camera eventually craps out. And once they’re mandatory, like air bags, you’ll probably be required by law to fix it when it craps out – else fail the state “safety” inspection that many states require in order to keep the registration valid.  

But what if you don’t have a child – and therefore the “safety hazard” of backing up over one in your driveway is essentially nonexistent? Isn’t requiring child-free people to buy back-up cameras a lot like requiring them to buy child safety seats?

And while installing back-up sensors on a bloated 19-foot SmooVee with more blind spots than Ray Charles may make some sense, isn’t it a bit much to demand that they be installed across the board – even on subcompact coupes, mid-sized sedans and other normal-sized cars? Whatever happened to turning your head and checking things out before putting it in reverse?

I guess that’s now Big Momma’s job, too.

Where will it end?

Arguably, there’s already too much noise clutter and digitized idiot-proofing being grafted onto cars.

Pint-sized Toyotas come with aneurism-inducing BEEP! BEEP BEEP! buzzers that erupt as soon as you put the transmission in reverse – as if a compact-sized car were some gigantic garbage scow or front-end loader that needed to warn all in the vicinity of the imminent rearward movement of its oversized, unwieldy self.

I drove a new Corvette recently. It peremptorily locks its doors – and locks you in – until you put the transmission in reverse and turn off the engine. Maybe GM thinks you might decide to open the door and jump out while the car is still moving forward? 

Almost all 2011 model vehicles come with incredibly aggravating “Belt Minder” buzzers that hit you with a BING ! BING ! BING BING! fierce and jarring enough to trigger a reflex action such as putting your fist through the dashboard. The buzzer goes off even if all you’re doing is running the stupid car up the driveway to get the mail. Buckle-up for safety!


Only Nissan – bless their hearts – hasn’t put these damn things in its cars.


Maybe it’d be simpler, less expensive – and in the long run, produce a crop of more attentive, responsible motorists – if we quit relying on henpecky technology that assumes an ever-lower Driver IQ and instead returned to the days of expecting drivers to think, use their noggins and exercise good judgment.

Look behind the vehicle before you back up to make sure no one left a small child taking a nap behind the rear wheels. Don’t forget to take your tot with you when you leave the vehicle parked in the broiling mid-day sun with the windows rolled up.

Is it really too much to ask? Or have we become so addled, so utterly incapable of thinking for ourselves that it’s become necessary to swaddle us in “for your own good” technology and ever dumber dumbed-down, least-common-denominator laws and regulations?

One thing’s for sure: If the safety-uber-alles juggernaut isn’t derailed pretty soon, we’ll pass the point of no return when this kind of thing will become the new norm – and all us “reckless risk-takers” who continue to believe we can handle things on our own, without being herded like cattle, will be rounded up and sent to the gulag (or local DMV office) for “re-education.”

Throw it in the Woods?


  1. My new (to me) Focus has a backup camera. Though I like having one, I haven’t stopped using my mirrors; no other car I’ve owned has had one, so scanning my mirrors is an ingrained habit. Besides, mirrors can give you a lot of info. If you have power mirrors, you can change the angle and a good view of what’s happening behind you. Though I like having a backup camera, I just scan it along with my mirrors.

    That said, I think it’s going to make bad drivers worse. Folks who never used their mirrors completely will use ’em even less now.

    Oh, and one piece of nanny tech I DON’T like is the shift interlock that’s been on cars since the early-mid 00s; I hate ’em! If your car’s ignition isn’t on and the brake depressed, you can’t change the gear position with an automatic. I never had a problem before they were put on cars; why are they needed now? Like I’m some idiot who doesn’t know how to work a gear shift…

  2. The black boxes are here and have been around since the late 1990s, Dom. They and their data have figured in a number of court cases and criminal charges all over the US after accidents.

    “Can you imagine all the cars started communicating with each other as a mandate!” Well, the next-generation OBD, which has been planned since about 2000, is very likely to include a remote shutoff system so the cops or bureaucrats can shut you down for violating traffic laws, ignoring that “Check Engine” light, or driving on prohibited days during fuel or pollution crises. Google “Your Car Will Tell on You”. I wrote that piece in 2000 for the late, great Loompanics catalogue, and it’s all been coming true.

    Think I’ll be keeping my old ’98 Taurus wagon for as long as I can. No expensive ABS (though it was optional, mine didn’t have it), tire pressure monitors, vehicle stability control, rear camera, etc., etc.

  3. “Maybe GM thinks you might decide to open the door and jump out while the car is still moving forward?”

    Never know when you’re gonna need to bail out! ha

    Only buzzing noise I like to hear is when my keys are left in the ignition, or my Valentine One is singing its song.

    You do know what is next right!

    A black box recording all the observable data.

    I shit you not this will happen if action is not taken soon enough to end this fucking nonsense shit.

    OMG, I just thought of something else. Can you imagine all the cars started communicating with each other as a mandate!

  4. Yeah, I remember the “deal” for adopting the bombs in the dashboard. If seatbelt use was made mandatory, then no hair bags required. The .govs around the country lacked the testicular fortitude to impose the seat belts, so hair bags made mandatory. Now the seat belts are required by “LAW!!!!”, and the goons will enforce that mandate at the point of a gun. So why do I have to purchase bombs in my car?? ( actually, I don’t. I purchase and drive older, non government designed transportation.) But hey, the idea is what counts…

    • Yes, exactly. I think once you’ve conceded the premise – that it’s legitimate for the government to force you to do anything “for your own good” (as opposed to only interceding when your actions clearly and directly threaten other people) then you’ve lost the battle. There is no longer any way to object (and therefore, to stop) further such encroachments and pretty tyrannies. The Clovers of this world are winning….

    • Why were they made mandatory when they’re called SUPPLEMENTAL restraint systems? They were never billed as being primary restraints; you still need the belts for that.

  5. Pardon my ignorance, but it was a huge shock when I learned the computer was controlling the brakes on the newer cars. I find having to depend on a computer to grant a request to stop the car scary as hell and told my congress people. Imagine not being able to stop your own car because the computer does not think you need to.


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