Friday, September 3, 2010

Idiocy Assist

I’ve recently learned that high-end cars can do all kinds of things to protect you from your own stupidity. Take the Mercedes E class.

It was once commonly believed that people who drove cars like this possessed superhuman driving abilities, or were just, you know, somehow better than the rest of us. But a glimpse behind the scenes reveals that the cars are doing a lot of the work, and that their owners may in fact have the driving skills of, say, your run-of-the-mill crackhead (the difference between the two types of people being just a matter of how they spend their money).

Let's have a look at the car itself. One of its many exciting features is "Attention Assist," which helps you to drive when you’re not paying attention. How does it work? A light comes on the dashboard that tells you to pay attention.

If you're too tired to watch the road, you might as well be reading some text down near the odometer. Pretty ingenious, really.

Also there's the “Blind Spot Assist,” which not only does a great job of perpetuating the myth that you have a “blind spot”—because drivers should never be so inconvenienced as to turn their heads more than 15 degrees—but also prevents you from entering that spot and possibly damaging your vehicle or killing the driver of a nearby lesser vehicle.

This illustration from Car And Driver shows the Blind Spot Assist in action:

Incidentally, it also illustrates a pretty tight attack formation. If only Darth Vader's gussied-up "TIE Fighter" had features like the E Class he could have avoided the collision with his own wing-henchman that sent him spinning off into space while his brand new "Death Star" got all blowed up.



If you're not already bowled over (by either the above car features or gratuitous pyrotechnics), then take note of this: the E Class even has “Speed Limit Assist,” which scans speed limit signs on the roadway for you. Then a light appears on the dashboard to alert you to the speed limit. As we already know, you should not be expected to pay attention to anything further away than your dashboard.

Note that with this feature speed limits are displayed in kilometers for maximum pretension.

I have to admit that add-ons like these represent some serious innovation—at long last there's a car perfectly tailored to the needs of the semi-functioning alcoholic. Really, it's amazing the lengths the enablers at Mercedes-Benz will go to keep the overworked and self-important behind the wheel.

Advertising is often about appealing to the inner child. Mercedes has taken this a step further, and is creating vehicles to fully empower the perpetually immature and/or inebriated. Even a full-grown certified imbecile (think Sloth from The Goonies) might have a shot at getting home from the local Dairy Queen in one of these. Safety features are a good thing when it comes to automobiles, but still, cars are like wills, in that you should be of sound mind and body if you're going to operate one. If this automotive trend continues, pretty soon the highways are going to look like this:

I just hope one of them has their eyes on the dashboard.

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