Technology Scares Me

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My car is insecure.

I don’t mean that I left it unlocked. It sent me an email; it wants me to answer some questions about its performance and how much I like it. That’s my assumption anyway – I haven’t clicked on the link yet to find out what it is all about.

My usual habit with automobiles is to find a good used vehicle and drive it into the ground, a process that usually takes about eight years. Since our minivan was purchased in 2008, this summer was replacement time.

I’m not a car person. To me one is just like another. If it gets me where I am going and doesn’t break down, it’s good. The rest of the family is more discriminating (including having colour preferences) so I let them make the choice. My role is negotiation and payment.

So my wife and daughter found an acceptable vehicle. But they didn’t tell me it would be needy and require feedback. Maybe they didn’t know.2010_Chevy_Equinox_TwilightBlueMetallic2

A lot has changed in the eight years since I last bought an automobile. What were once luxury items are apparently now standard. And since the new vehicle still has a couple of months warranty left, I get to see all the bells and whistles in action. Most of them I haven’t examined yet. Some of them confuse me. Others, like sending me emails, have me wondering who is in charge of this relationship.

I thought the included satellite radio would be a nice touch for our drive to Maine last month. There are places in the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire where regular radio reception is spotty. Turns out the satellite is spotty in those spots too. Given that, I don’t see me paying the subscription rate when the trial period ends. Though I will admit it was nice to have CBC radio in the U.S.

I haven’t used the vehicle as an Internet hot spot yet, I don’t even know the password, but I suppose I’ll try the service at some point. I guess it is the way of the future.

One security feature I discovered by accident and still haven’t figured out. I unlocked the car door with the key, and that set off the alarm.

My first thought was that I had inadvertently pressed the alarm button on the key fob, but no, I later read in the manual that it was a security feature. The alarm comes on when you open the car door after unlocking it with the key. It turns itself off when you insert the key in the ignition. Can you explain the logic of that? I thought not.

I knew the warranty coverage included a roadside assistance plan. Intellectually I knew that as part of that the manufacturer gets a constant signal from the vehicle. They always know where I am. If I manage to lock my keys in the car I can phone and they will unlock it for me. A few years ago that would have seemed like magic.

Of course there’s a drawback to this connectivity. I think they can always, if they so desire, listen to what is being said in the vehicle. (I’m not paranoid. I doubt very much that of the millions of similarly equipped cars anyone is listening to what is being said in mine, unless I turn the roadside assistance on. But it does lead me to wonder if police and security agencies routinely use this feature to eavesdrop on suspects.)

When we got back from Maine the car sent me an email to tell me how it was feeling.  It was in good shape, no issues to warn me about. Air bags are fine as are the brakes, and I’ve been driving an average of 67 kilometres daily.

I think I preferred the old days when my car didn’t tell me what to do and know so much about my habits. Those days when I was its master.



  1. “…listen to what is being said in the vehicle.” Really? That sounds like something might refute. There was a similar thing awhile ago with smart TV sets. If it’s true, it’s scary on so many levels.

    1. Snopes might refute it – but would anyone believe them? No doubt as to the technology. If I can speak to the emergency assistance people from the vehicle, and they to me, then they can theoretically listen in. I haven’t read that far in the manual, but I think you need to establish the connection. Or do you?

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