David Hasselhoff won’t be the only one with a K.I.T.

Talking Cars Could Hit the Road by 2012

'Talking' Cars Could Hit the Road by 2012

In a recent Wired.com article I read about the forthcoming technology designed to make cars ‘talk’. I must say, aside from the anthropomorphization of technologies (how can a car ‘talk’ so much as imitate what we imagine the process of ‘talking’ subsists of. Despite this marionette show, the car cannot hold spontaneous conversation or offer novel commentary. All things that it can ‘talk’ about are never in relation to the driver, nor outside of the realm of its programmed parameters).  Anyway, that digression was a train wreck! Lets return to my main thought shall we? 
I chanced upon this article which primes us for a new talking car technology to be introduced sometime in 2012. However, not being a technophile (nor technophobe), rather a technocritic and academic, I can already see where this will lead. First, There will be a an outpouring of funding to feed hungry researchers, my colleagues in need of grants; the only hitch? they must perform studies on the efficacy of these type technologies. If they can demonstrate even a moderately positive correlation between decreased collision rates  and their installed technologies, then they will receive the funding dollars. Secondly, once the efficacy is ‘proven’ by science, the time will be ripe for insurance companies to pounce, looking for ways to increase premiums for those who cannot purchase such gadgets yet still need to drive.
The third phase will be the point in time when the use of this and affiliated technologies will be a major variable in determining your insurance rate. Once technology companies unite with the insurance industry under allied interests, they will make a full court press via their Washington Lobby to make installation of these talking devices mandatory in every new car. It won’t be long before the older ones will be required to be retrofitted. 
Now reading this particularly ‘ranty’ post, you may think”consipracy theory abounds!” but remember the NYC Yellow Taxi strike a few years back? You can watch a great video summary New York Times online.  I would have included it here if it were possible to do so. Do take a moment to view it if you can. Moving on, NYC Yellow Cabs were bullied a few years ago into purchasing random technologies that do not benefit them (GPS, Credit Cars terminals and passenger screens displaying weather and corporate advertising). These technologies continue to cost the drivers 5% of their income with each transaction paid with credit card, plus the costs of installation and purchase of the devices, maintenance for the taxi itself plus the technology and service, while corporations profit from the product sales and service as well as the revenue generated from its proliferation and the nominal advertising fees.  Guess who profits from this, TLC and City Government make revenues from both, and passengers will have a series of bright screens and more noise in addition to the celebrity pronouncements to contend with during their taxi rides. 
To be clear, these working class taxi drivers subsidize a technolgy that they never wanted in the first place! The Taxi Drivers resisted, they organized and eventually went on strike, however the cards were stacked against them and they sadly failed in their valiant fight. There you have it, cars are not private domain though they may be purchased with private dollars. I think that it is the condition of being licensed which subjects you to arbitrary impositions from the licensing agency. As such, all drivers are vulnerable to the upcoming onslaught of mandatory technologies that WILL be required in our cars.  Do not underestimate them, technology companies backed by the powerful insurance and automaker lobby will soon motivate, if they have not already, to make concrete strides to co-opt the optional silence of your car interior and to demand more of our already limited income to subsidize their desire for more profit.
Just to refer back to my previous green-washing post not all green washing is about nature-hued technologies. These changes they will couch in the idea of safety for you, your family and your car. Protecting those things most precious to you, your family and your merchandise. Many of you will believe it, and when it becomes mandatory, the rest of us will have to buy into it, belief be damned.
“What would the timing be?” you may ask… Well, once GPS and this talking technology no longer seem like luxury goods and profitability levels out  because they will have saturated their original markets, it is then that we will feel the effects of their lobby efforts in Washington. They will press for mandatory installation in new cars, and it will likely piggy back on ‘green-technologies’. How is this for a slogan:  “Saving the earth by getting you there faster, saving you by getting you there safer”.  Kinda catchy…I’d buy it…NOT!

5 thoughts on “David Hasselhoff won’t be the only one with a K.I.T.

  1. Actually, you are entirely incorrect about taxis anf the new technology systems. Drivers are in no way responsible for the purchase of the systems or maintenance, or any of the things you said they had to pay for. In addition, the TLC and City of New York do NOT receive any revenue from these systems. Please check your facts!


    • Allan, thank you for your feedback. My recollection / understanding from the discussions at the time were that that taxi drivers would have to pay to install the systems as reported in the New York Times article I cited.
      “The city views the new requirements as “technology enhancements” that will benefit passengers, but not all drivers agree. As Lisa Iaboni of The Times explains in this video, some drivers are threatening to go on strike to protest the technology. The opponents of the new technology say it will hurt drivers because the costs off installing and maintaining equipment will ultimately be passed on to them. They also assert that they will lose a portion of their income to credit-card transaction fees.”

      So, if indeed the terms were changed, and given your official tlc email address, I am inclined to believe that they were, I am then extremely pleased to learn that there is actually less penalty for the taxi drivers! I appreciate your feedback, keep it coming!


  2. It’s not that the terms were changed, but rather those that were listed as “opponents” of the initiative had broadly speculated at the time that medallion owners, who were in fact responsible for all costs associated with the systems, would find some way to pass costs along to drivers. This would have been impossible, however, due to caps on lease fees imposed by the TLC. Unfortunately, there was much misleading propaganda passed along to drivers at the time with the assistance of understandably sympathetic media, which took advantage of drivers’ fear of the unknown before the systems were in wide use. The one cost that is borne by drivers is the 5% processing fee for credit card transactions, which, as predicted, have been more than offset by the significantly higher tips paid by credit card users — an average of 20% of the fare, as opposed to tips equaling 10-15% for cash fares.


  3. Aha! The usual suspects unmasked! I am all favor of technology in service of the people, so this is indeed good news to learn of the higher rate at which riders tip drivers on their credit cards, a 20% average is certainly impressive. I wonder, if in your work you have learned the way to pre-empt or at least counteract the misleading information proffered by the popular mass media?


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