Thursday, September 13, 2012

Kunstler vs. visual displays in cars

In an addendum to this week's missive of DOOM, Kunstler threw one final brickbat at the latest technology in cars.
Sidebar on How "Smart" We Think We Are

TV commercial seen during the Women's finals of the US Tennis Open:

Cadillac is bragging that they have replaced the old dashboard knobs and toggles with a "smart" iPad-type control system. Has a car company ever done something so fucking stupid? The whole point of knobs and toggles is that you can keep your eyes on the road while adjusting things by feel. An iPad you actually have to look at to see what you're tapping on. Expect a colossal death toll from buyers of the latest Cadillacs in the next couple of years. I suppose there's poetic justice in the automobile age winding down on a note of such supernatural idiocy.
That Kunstler ranted about this topic is a bit of a coincidence as I included a similar story in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (35th Anniversary of Voyager 1 edition) at Daily Kos last Saturday. It turns out that GPS systems share the same issue as the Cadillac dashboard controls. The problem is that today's drivers prefer to look at their controls, even if it impairs their driving, as the New York Times reported in When GPS Confuses, You May Be to Blame.
A group of researchers led by Andrew L. Kun, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of New Hampshire, placed test subjects in immersive driving simulators and tracked the frequency and duration of their glances at a navigation screen, when their eyes left the road. They found that in a majority of instances, these glances lasted for more than 200 milliseconds, long enough to empirically affect driving.

In the experiment, the display was large and easy to see, mounted atop the dashboard. “You did not have to change your gaze angle much to see it,” Dr. Kun said. Consulting a smartphone’s navigation app, on a much smaller screen and held lower, makes it more likely that a driver’s eyes will leave the road for longer stretches.

“Voice-only instructions delivered subjects to their destinations, and you could argue that they drove better because they looked at the road more,” Dr. Kun said of his test subjects. “Yet a majority preferred having a navigation screen — they felt anxious without it.”
There's more at the link, which describes most navigations failures from using GPS as the result of user error.

In case you're wondering what Kunstler is so upset about, here is GeekBeat.TV previewing the new CUE dashboard system in this year's Cadillacs.

Cadillac gave us a sneak peak at their new CUE system. It stands for Cadillac User Experience, and it consists of a few things, all based around a better user experience and at the same time keeping you safe while still using technology (like your mobile phone).
I kind of like it. As for Kunstler, well, it's no secret that he hates technology, or at least faith that technology will save us. He even has a book out called "Too Much Magic" about that topic. I haven't read it yet, but I'm sure I'll get around to it.


  1. Replies
    1. LMAO!

      I should have something better to say, but it's late and I'm getting a bit punchy. Time to go to bed!

    2. Over on Facebook, I pointed out to Nebs that Kunstler occasionally reads this blog. He was quite aware of that. Troll.