Interaction Temporarily Paused

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The 2023 VW ID.4 I’m test driving this week – more about that here – isn’t just an electric car.

It is a parenting car.

It will “temporarily pause” your ability to change the radio station – which you do by using the tap/swipe cell phone interface built into the dashboard  – if it thinks you have taken your eyes off the road. Which you have to do, because you cannot tell by feel what you’re doing when using a tap/swipe cell phone interface – i.e., the LCD touchscreen built into the dashboard.

Franz Kafka, phone home!

Almost all new and recent-model cars have these things, chiefly because they are cheap (to install) yet look fancy.

Electronics are one of the very few things that cost less to manufacture each year and so there is more profit in selling them. LCD touchscreens  have been sold to people – in cars – because people have to buy them, if they want to buy the car. It’s a great way to reduce manufacturing costs and increase profits (including via the mining of your “data,” for which you are not paid a cut).

They also “clean up” the dashboard, eliminating buttons and switches that were formerly used to control various functions, such as the heater and air conditioning.

And the audio system.

Now – in many cars – almost everything is controlled via the tap/swipe interface built into the dash, obliging you to tap and swipe. But that is distracting – just like the smartphone they say you’re not supposed to tap/swipe while driving. And so they built into the car a monitoring system that “temporarily pauses” your ability to exercise any control over the smartphone screen they built into the car – preventing you from changing the radio station, for instance – if the car thinks you are “distracted.”

It can see that – via eye-movement monitors that you can’t see unless you use a video camera. If you want to see these sensors, pan the dash area with a camera; then you’ll then see these strange metronomically blinking red lights. Those are the sensors. If they see you are looking at what you’re not supposed to – according to the car’s programming – then the car will “temporarily pause” whatever it was you were trying to do.

Like change the channel.

But not just that.

Implicit in this tech is the power to “temporarily pause” any number of things the car – and those who control it – wish to.

Acceleration, for instance.

Push down to aggressively on that pedal and the car may just push back (in fact, cars equipped with fully enabled Speed Limit Assistance Technology – as it is marketed – do exactly that). It is not even necessary, in the mechanical sense, for the car to push back on the accelerator because it is also electronic. All you’re doing when you push down on it is sending a signal that is interpreted by the computer that controls the car, which then decides to let the engine rev (or the motor spin, if the car is electric) to the degree you have requested.

But that request can easily be countermanded.

Just as happened when I tried to use the touchscreen the car forces me to use, in order to change the radio station. The eye-movement sensors sensed I was looking at the screen, which you have to do in order to be able to see where to tap/swipe (as well as how much, in this case, because one tap moves the channel up one or down one; if you want a channel that’s farther down or up you have to tap multiple times – like a seagull at the beach pecking at a piece of tinfoil).

Meanwhile, you could have just turned a knob – and not had to look while you did.

But knobs – and other physical controls, such as buttons  – are so  . . . analog. They don’t have the seagull-pecking-at-tinfoil appeal of tapping and swiping a glowing screen. Well, to some – who have grown up addicted to pecking at their phones, like a seagull entranced by a piece of tinfoil.

They are also used to being parented by devices, which is what cars have become – especially electric ones, which are fundamentally very large smartphones.

The latter term is etymologically interesting, too – in that “smart” has come to mean those who use such devices are presumed to be dull.

The same goes for “pro” – often used in close context, as for example the (literally) Pro version of this VW electric car that comes with the optional battery and standard with driver-pre-emption electronics  . . . such as eye-movement sensors that send signals to a computer controller that temporarily pauses your former right to be in control of your car.

In other words, you are a “Pro” in the same way that a child afflicted with Down Syndrome is “special.” Like such a child, you are in need of assistance.

And if you don’t want it, you’ll get it anyhow.

. . .

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39 COMMENTS

  1. […] nor are at all respectful of any input whatsoever from their lowly drivers, it uses the esteemed Eric Peters’ perambulations on said topic as the springboard for my own musings on same. […]

  2. Interaction temporarily paused: a great wordsmith, who wrote often about mortality, passes on.

    ‘Martin Amis, whose caustic, erudite and bleakly comic novels redefined British fiction in the 1980s and ’90s with their sharp appraisal of tabloid culture and consumer excess, and whose private life made him tabloid fodder himself, died on Friday at his home in Lake Worth, Fla. He was 73.

    ‘His wife, the writer Isabel Fonseca, said the cause was esophageal cancer — the same disease that killed his close friend and fellow writer Christopher Hitchens in 2011.

    ‘Mr. Amis’s literary heroes — he called them his “Twin Peaks” — were Vladimir Nabokov and Saul Bellow, and critics located in his work both Nabokov’s gift for wordplay and gamesmanship and Bellow’s exuberance and brio.

    ‘Mr. Amis’s talent was undeniable: He was the most dazzling stylist in postwar British fiction. So were his swagger and Byronic good looks. He had well-chronicled involvements with some of the most watched young women of his era. He wore, according to media reports, velvet jackets, Cuban-heel boots, bespoke shirts. He stared balefully into paparazzi lenses.’

    https://archive.ph/Q23KB#selection-731.0-731.358

  3. Nanny tech like that is why I don’t want to buy a vehicle newer than 2017. On the 2018 and newer F-150’s, the vehicle has to be stopped before you can use the radio controls to make changes, or scroll through music on a device plugged into the usb outlet. Of course you get around this by unplugging the device, but it’s much more distracting. Give me an older car any day.

    • Amen, Jonathan –

      One of the regular annoyances I am obliged to deal with testing new cars is that the radio turns itself down (or even off) when I back the car up. For saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety.

  4. Wow – I can imagine how pissed off I’d be if I bought a car and it told me that (which wont be good for saaaaffeety). I get annoyed enough when the distance sensors on my car put down the volume of my podcast…

    The irony is now a guy is driving down the road filming it on his phone 🤣🤣🤣

    • Hi Nasir!

      I probably ought not to say this publicly, but – I can drive better using my legs (and knees) than many can using both hands. I mean this literally.

  5. A normal person can manage cracking the door open to peer while backing up. My 2020 BMW X3 nanny will throw the car in park if I dare do that. It’s not saaaaaafe!!!!

    • Aaah yes, Mike, I found out by accident that my new Camry has this “saaaafety” feature. I opened up the driver’s side door, looked to the rear of the vehicle, started backing up, and heard this highly annoying, fast-paced, urgency sounding alarm. What a pain in the a**.

  6. The marketeers want touch screens. Bigger and bigger touch screens. software designers want all these stupid menus and swiping and other nonsense. Engineers have to get the damn thing compliant to safety standards. And there ya go.

    This danger causing control panel is saving maybe $5 tops if everything is on it vs not having it. The problem is the backup camera mandate that makes it be there anyway. And the backup camera mandate is a patch on ruining visibility to pass rollover and other crash standards.

  7. They probably want you to use the voice (doesn’t recognize) system. More Star Trek tech that isn’t quite ready yet despite decades of research. Doesn’t help that most people aren’t all that good at dictating specific instructions either.

    I’ve tried to use voice to run the navigation system on my Cherokee because like VW’s system it locks out the keyboard when the car is in gear (I guess having a passenger serve as co-pilot and navigator isn’t allowed), and unless I know exactly what to say, no “ummms” or “ahhhs,” the system will return some of the oddest results I’ve ever seen. If I had to use it to change playlists or podcasts… never mind I’ll just enjoy the silence. Siri is slightly better but only because Apple has thrown millions of dollars and man hours at the problem, and it still only gets it right first try about 40% of the time.

  8. The fresh air package is up next…… Pass a little gas from that lunch bugburger and a seat sensor automatically opens the windows and turns the interior blower on high.

  9. You know, at one time Detroit led the world in making cars better. At one point in the 60’s someone realized all those controls that were round and felt the same were tough to manipulate while driving. So, they started standardizing the shape and texture of the control, so you knew by feel which was the headlamp switch, which was the wipers, etc. Sort of like how aircraft have a little wheel on the end of the landing gear control handle. Well, nowadays? Even LOOKING at the blasted touchscreen, it’s almost impossible to use it, much less while driving and NOT looking! It’s the IT mentality invading all spaces, squeezing logic and common sense out.

  10. I used to just get pissed at the assinine aftermarket, and even factory, radios that hide or disguise the OFF button. I need to HEAR other things when working on a car besides the current “hamburgler” sounds on someones tune-box. Sometimes just get basic info such as ODOMETER READINGS, of all pointless things, I must shut a hood, door, menu, or whatever idiotic crap it takes to clear the “message screen” to get it.
    If I sat here and list HALF of the useless obstacles I have to contend with just to do a State Inspection, I would be typing all f-ing day!

    • “If I sat here and list HALF of the useless obstacles I have to contend with just to do a State Inspection, I would be typing all f-ing day!”

      I hope you were trying to be ironic.

  11. I am in the process of purchasing my first new car since 2018 – A 1982 Jetta Coupe’ with 210 PS and a weight of 940Kg (with a full tank of gas). It has all the features of a new car such as: Lane Assist (steering wheel), Daytime Running Lights (actuated by a switch on the dash), Blind Spot Assist (two outside convex mirrors), Adaptive Cruise Control (set by the position of the driver’s foot on the accelerator), Emergency Braking (set off by one’s right foot moving from the gas to the brake pedal), Rain Sensor Wipers (powered by a stalk on the right of the steering column) and Reverse Assist (a rear view mirror and windows). Since I’ve finally taken the plunge, now my Girlfriend also wants a new car but something a little bit more Low-Tech – a Trabant.

    • Good point. The simple things we used to do for ourselves when we wanted to are now overly complicated and performed for us. This exemplifies how the govt, business, schools all treat the population like drooling idiots in so many aspects of life these days.

  12. This is not right. Other car manufacturers allow you to have at least 6 separate (touch sensitive) switches to use, so that you have a quick and easy access to the 6 (or 12) most used stations.

    In addition, physical switches and keys last forever, but for how long are these touch sensitive screens going to last? Probably for a long time in most cases, but they cost a fortune to repair or replace when they don’t work anymore.

    Another problem with today’s car manufacturers is that they on purpose make systems that are very expensive for the user to fix/replace when they break. This in comparison to the old fashioned on/off switches and rotating switches, that cost little to replace.

    It is enough to drive you crazy (if you let it) – according to Dolly Parton.

    • Amen, Jone –

      I despise these tap/swipe interfaces – for a number of sound reasons, the main one being they are not “easier to use.” They make things harder to do. A knob – as to rotate left or right to increase – is simplicity itself. Yet they have to “improve” on this – by making it complicated.

      I doubt I will ever buy a new car.

      • So um…what happens when you are wearing dark sunglasses? Can this sensor tell the difference when you are wearing those, or does it wig out on you? What if one decides to be a smart a**, and put tape over the sensors? I surmise that would white out the entire screen, and you would not be able to use it at all. Ugh, you have a Far Side clip (damned if you/don’t) option of having this, or your whiny, nagging mother-in-law in the passenger seat with you at all times. What a choice! All because they decided to fix something that was never broken in the first place.

  13. What if you’re wearing sunglasses? Will it decide that you’re not looking at whatever it wants you to look at? So therefore no control of anything?

    I’ve never liked the MMI controls on the Audis that I’ve owned. But at least with the 2014-2015 models that I have, they still are mostly button and knob controlled. They don’t even have touch screen. And that’s how I prefer it to be but looks like those days are over.

  14. “SOROS CONDITION DETERIORATES FURTHER — According to sources the billionaire is no longer responding to people and is bedridden.” (iSource News, May 15, 2023)

    ===> “Interaction temporarily paused.” 🙂

      • The Henry demon’s birthday is tomorrow the 27th! It’s been 100 years since that fucker was summoned from the 9th circle.

    • Wow, didn’t know that, finally some great news!
      Soros and Kissinger both deserve the express bus to hell; I plan to piss on Kissinger’s grave, might have to wait in line.

    • I have a friend who has this theory why these evil people live so long. He believes that God is trying to give them the longest opportunity possible to redeem themselves before being sent off to the fires of hell for eternity.

      I don’t think there’s any hope for Soros or Kissinger. They’re going to be getting very hot soon.

    • Another sad example of “Interaction Temporarily Paused” — Senator John Fetterman’s incoherent word salad from 3:50 to 4:55 in this committee meeting video elicits only stunned silence from the bank execs he was trying to badger:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfxVz3-0XLc

      Quite possibly a jet-legged “Biden” will top Fetterman’s bizarre performance, having arrived in Japan today. Remember when George H W Bush barfed on Japanese PM Miyazawa at a state dinner in 1992? Let’s go, Brandon!

      • A car that tells you what to do and how to drive is going to drive you right out of the thing. You’re no longer the stakeholder, you are no longer a decision maker. Park the thing and leave it there. Last thing you will ever need. Not my problem, it’s your problem.

        I’m shedding copious amounts of crocodile tears for Sore-Ass and Kissassinger, such a loss. They will be remembered, but not for long. Two has-beens that now are in need of constant care, they’re both special.

        There is a long list of names that will generate unsympathetic crocodile tears. Insouciance rules.

        I was once a federal employee, had a US Senate identification. I was young and pretty much downright stupid about the world, but just trying to get by in this world can be a challenge.

        One experience did take place during that time before being forced to move on, I no longer had the job.

        While there, I stood in a doorway to block any kind of attack on Hank when he existed the committee conference room after testifying before a Senate Committee back in 1972 or so. You would have had to aim low to get a head shot on old Hank.

        No chat bot is going to have that kind of information.

        Who in God’s name listens to Joe Biden’s senseless caterwauling?

        Fools?

        Knaves?

        It’s all a shtick and you don’t count.

        The last four breaths will count the most said a pastor in a sermon on Easter Sunday many moons ago.

        Reject all religions, you’ll be better off.

        Pull a Giordano Bruno, the first to Go Galt.

    • I’m sure he’s ordered up a new organ or two from the Uyghur camp. Might take some time to find a compatible match.

  15. Forced obsolescence. In a dozen years, if the battery is not kaput, replacing just one of those eye tracking sensors in a state with inspection requirements will cost more than the vehicle is worth resale.

    The “assistance” camera is my long term concern in my 2018 Camry. Whenever it malfunctions temporarily, the dash of the car lights up like a Christmas tree with warnings, even though I keep all of the functions turned off or, in the case of the brake “assist”, sensitivity dialed down to the minimum.

    $1200 part new from Toyota out of warranty.

    At one point, when I called to complain to the national 1800 number, the rep sounded alarmed that I knew that cost. “Where did you get that number?”

    “A dealer’s online parts department.”

  16. ‘buttons are so . . . analog.

    So are vinyl records, which now outsell digitally-encoded CDs. Though that’s a misleading stat, since subscription-based streaming (‘you’ll own nothing and be happy’) has gobbled up most of the music market.

    And so are vacuum tube amplifiers. From the Robb Report:

    ‘Charles Whitener, CEO of tube-and-electronics manufacturer Western Electric in Rossville, Ga. says, “Music played through transistor electronics has a certain compression and thinness, while a vacuum-tube system has a voluptuous, musical soundstage with front-to-back depth. It’s lush, it’s real … it sounds human.”

    ‘Whitener is such a believer he bought the rights and technology to manufacture the long-defunct Western Electric 300B, the most famous audio tube of them all. Invented in 1938, it was made continuously for 50 years until AT&T, then owner of the brand, shut down the plant; production resumed only after Whitener’s acquisition a decade later.’

    https://robbreport.com/gear/audio/vacuum-tube-amps-remerging-1234797622/

    “It sounds human.” Which no cell phone or digital entertainment system can do.

    When analog technology from 1938 gets put back in production, it’s telling us that the stuff which replaced it is cheap and nasty digital dogshit.

    • Hi Jim,
      I splurged on a KLH radio as a graduation present for myself back in the 60’s. I also bought a bunch of spare tubes just in case I needed them, never thinking that someday they would be unavailable. Radio is still going strong, golden sound, and enough spares to last as long as I do. 😆

    • Santa brought me a 300B amp for Christmas, the sound quality is incredible. It is a true tube amp, not a hybrid so 7.5 amps is it, but at 68 I’m not trying to knock the chinaware off the shelves. It’s Chicom, but the little rascals did a great job. You can turn the volume up full (with nothing playing!) put your ear right up to the speaker there is zero noise. Fathers Day is supposed to provide a new cartridge for the 1978 JVC turntable I resurrected last winter. Back to vinyl it is.

    • I have two Fender amps. One if them being the digital solid-state variety and the other having tubes. I only play one of them…

  17. Eric: If you want to see these sensors, pan the dash area with a camera; then you’ll then see these strange metronomically blinking red lights.

    I’m pretty sure when I last used the self check out in a store the security monitor showed the same type of flashing lights at those self check outs.

    Also consider older professional grade power tools. Just press the trigger and it cuts, saws etc. The consumer version though you have to pull or push something or grip firmly before it does what you want.

    We’re being turned into the supporting cast of the movie “Walle” complete with AI masters.

    Hold onto your old stuff if you want to be free, funny that sounds like what the author Christopher Anvil would have written….

  18. “Smart” tech makes people stupid. It’s obvious, given the much increased presence of people NOT driving while “driving”. Because they don’t know how, since their “smart” car is taking care of it all. Except it doesn’t.
    Speaking of smart things, I had an epiphany regarding CBDC yesterday. Not only can you have all your money stolen by the thought police, but they can just as easily create a record of you spending money on illegal items, even if you didn’t, and throw you in jail too. Like donating money to Putin. Or buying illegal weapons. Or funding “insurrection”. Etc.

    • Maybe buy as much as you can with cash? And lets not forget the old “Loose lips, sink ships”.
      We might be living in a surveillance state but at least make em work at it to see what you’re doing.

      • “We might be living in a surveillance state but at least make em work at it to see what you’re doing.” – Landru

        There’s a better option…

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