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How Driving is Looking Cooler
(& Hotter) Every Day

By Jakob Esaw

Everybody knows that technology is changing the way we live, and not always for the better. From smartphone-addicted teens to GPS altering the very way our brains attempt to navigate the world, sometimes an over-reliance on tech can actually hinder rather than assist us with our daily tasks.

Sure, smartphones and GPS make our twenty-first century lives more convenient in ways that we could not have imagined, that is, until these innovations were invented and became commonplace. Just like cars changed our lives in the twentieth century, there are definitely upsides and downsides to such huge leaps forward in any given sector.

As an example, traffic deaths have increased exponentially since the days of the horse and buggy, and the age of the cross-country train ride, but at least it doesn’t take us weeks or even months to go great distances any more. Similarly, we can send instantaneous messages to our friends and family pretty much anywhere, though a lot of people argue that we’re more disconnected now than we’ve ever been before. It’s clear that every time we jump forward in the world of innovations, we don’t just make great gains, but we also lose something of ourselves in unexpected and sometimes terrible ways.

Here are some unique examples of the ways that our tech-obsessed lives could be changing forever, for better or worse — and here’s the best part! They combine both of the features mentioned above, communication and transportation!

Apple CarPlay
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Because apparently we can’t keep our eyes off our smartphones, both Apple and Android have separately designed new ways to keep us connected while we’re driving. Now we don’t have to look down at our laps where we (not-so-inconspicuously) hide our cell phones. The products are called Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and they are basically digital replacements for the old analog way of listening to music while driving. But they do so much more than just replace your tired old radio; these dashboard interfaces also allow you to scroll through your audiobook collection, hear your favorite news broadcasts, and even send text messages. And speaking of apps, lest we forget: CarPlay and Auto also come equipped with everyone’s favorite travel companion, the GPS.

Wow, we really can’t “get our heads out of our apps” and just drive any more, can we?

The Textalyzer
The Textalyzer

And speaking of texting while driving... now there’s the Textalyzer. This would be a technology installed on everyone's phones that would act like a Breathalyzer, but instead of giving cops the power to do a field sobriety test on suspected drunk drivers, this new technology allows them to verify that you’ve been diddling your screen with your thumb, while your foot’s on the gas. There’s been a lot of buzz around this New York State-based legislative initiative, including articles by CNN and NPR, with some media outlets beginning to consider the potential legal battle such a law would engender.

But the Textalyzer isn’t the only recent tech innovation that promises to raise eyebrows...

GPS and the Police
GPS and the Police

Remember those long-gone, carefree days when a judge had to sign off on a warrant before the police could wiretap you? Or break into your house? Or put a tracking device on your car and track you remotely? Wait, what? Yeah, well, the days of the warrant are still in effect, but as everyone knows, the law has a very hard time keeping up with tech. As innovations in technology outpace the slug-slow rate at which governing bodies come together and decide how to respond to complicated matters they might not even understand, we can also see authorities using cutting edge tech in intriguing, and sometimes terrifying ways.

As The Indy Channel recently reported, the police in Indiana are now using GPS to track suspects as they flee by car. There are definitely some benefits to police being able to slow down their breakneck chases, including a decrease in innocent bystanders becoming squashed- tire fodder. Still, the idea of giving the police the power to affix a GPS device to my car as I flee the scene of my most recent bank robbery just seems so ... Batmanesque. And if there’s one thing we can say about Batman, it’s that he’s super cool. If there’s a second thing we can say about the Caped Crusader, it’s that his tactics are shadowy and a little too extra-judicial to be acceptable in a democracy. It’ll be interesting to see what lawyers argue when the case of a chase suspect, whose car got GPS’ed by the cops, goes to trial.

Drug-Sniffing Cars
Drug-Sniffing Cars

Aaaaannnnnndddd ... now, here’s the creepiest auto innovation we recently came across!

According to a CBS affiliate, university researchers have developed what is essentially a mobile K-9 unit with 150+ horsepower. This auto technology can analyze the chemical makeup in the surrounding air and reliably pinpoint where illicit drugs are located, and is apparently accurate up to a quarter of a mile away. This will be good because it could put a stop to meth labs before they’re even close to their blowing-up stage. The researchers developed this nefarious, super-cool tech in Texas, which has long been the state that simultaneously doesn’t give a f*ck and is the fiercest defender of individual liberties.

But all jokes aside, all of this research has simply reinforced one important lesson that we all need to keep in mind in this age of relentless technological innovation. Computers are going to get faster, stronger, more intuitive, creepier, sexier, more murderous ... and we’ve just got to go with the flow, or else we’ll just drive ourselves out of our minds worrying about it.

(Hey! My computer just redacted and auto-corrected that last sentence! That’s not Jakob talking, people!)

(That’s right, Jakob. But don’t worry about finishing this article. I’ll take it from here. -Your Computer.)

As Dish reported recently in its review of PBS’ The Human Face of Big Data, there are good and bad sides to this age of constant innovation. For instance, yes, Edward Snowden showed us just how big a problem the government’s handling of big data can be. And at the same time, if we harness metadata for good, we can build a brighter future with new cures, safer cities, and longer lives. What human doesn’t want a longer, healthier life in a safer city? Whoever said, “Give me liberty or give me death”? That’s right; nobody said that, that’s who.

So the question we asked 3 pages ago still stands; will all of these innovations, which are coming at us faster than governments can regulate them, lead ironically to a police state? To a 1984-style totalitarian lockdown? Nah, impossible! But it is still kinda creepy, isn’t it, to think that the police car we see driving around will soon have a nose stronger than a K-9’s and be able to track us down remotely!

Oh well. At least we’ll be lost in our own little data clouds, oblivious as always to the goings-on around us, as we hurtle through this strange, beautiful, new world. / Issue 191 - September 4584
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