Posts tagged ‘cars’

January 6, 2011

Bump it (off the road)

Ever felt compelled to say something to the driver of another vehicle? I know I have… in the form of expletives for the most part. Which is probably why a tool like “Bump!” wasn’t designed for someone like me.

In case you’re too lazy to click on the link, Bump! is a service that allows motorists to message one another using a license plate number only. People can add their plate number (and phone number) to the website to start receiving messages. These can be sent straight to someone’s phone. Here’s all the good this service could bring to mankind:

  • letting people know they left their light on, their tire is flat or something’s leaking from their car,
  • kindly inviting people to move their car if it’s blocking yours,
  • telling someone who just zipped by in their ride that you think they’re cute,
  • get deals and discounts from retail stores/institutions that flagged your license plate number. That’s like Foursquare on wheels.
  • receive personalized service at drive-thru places.

The following staples of human interaction were cleverly left off the list:

  • Flipping off the person who just cut you off on the freeway,
  • Telling someone who just stole your parking spot what you think of their manners,
  • Warning the person tailgating you to back off,
  • Calling the slow driver in front of you who’s hogging the passing lane all sorts of funny names.

Call me a cynic if you want, but I think people are 10 times more likely to add this service to their road rage arsenal (already comprised of lively hand gestures, exacerbated facial expressions and aggressive car moves) than they are to use it to tell someone they’re cute.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the powers of the tool (it’s good!) and am sure it can be used for the greater good. I just think the majority of people in cars behave the same way Omid Djalili does in the video clip above.

Back in 2006, two guys created this website to allow users to report bad drivers by their license plate number. It’s a good venting outlet and is still quite popular. Can you imagine the possibilities offered by Bump! in this context? Endless!

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December 30, 2010

It Can Wait

Watched AT&T’s 10 minute documentary on texting while driving today; it’s called “It Can Wait”.

Powerful stuff. I lost my best friend to a drunk driver so the act of doing moronic things behind the wheel really hits close to home. Yet, I’m ashamed to say I’ve typed away at my phone multiple times while cruising the freeway. It didn’t feel wrong, I felt in control and felt that I was safe as long as I didn’t take my eyes off the road for too long. Because I’m that good of a driver.

This short movie though really affected me because it showed that texting while driving not only threatened the life of the person doing it (I was OK taking responsibility for my own life), but also endangered the lives of others. One guy hit a cyclist and will never forgive himself for that senseless death he caused.

The movie also shows that the worst thing that could happen to someone texting at the wheel isn’t necessarily dying. A guy survived but his head was so damaged, he lost the ability to perform routine tasks and will be forever dependent on others to do basic things for him.

Finally, the clip shows the last words in the text messages that were sent before the fatal accidents. “Yeah”. “Where u at?” “LOL”. None of them were substantial. None of them were urgent. All of them could have waited.

Other PSAs were done on the same topic. They all used scare techniques to tell people not to text so they don’t die. Here’s a British example; a very shocking, very graphic video.

Did it scare me? Yes. Did it stop me from texting at the wheel? Not really. The ad did not give me a simple reason not to engage in the dangerous behavior. I either got away with it or didn’t. What makes AT&T’s piece so much more compelling and effective is the slogan.  Fear and gory images end a conversation while “It can wait” becomes part of it. Fear is avoidance. “It can wait” is personal responsibility. It’s a response one can use to quiet an urge. It’s a sentence we can tell a friend. It’s an invitation to put things in perspective and decide to be safe. It’s empowering.

We need more of that.

November 16, 2010


Still on the topic of cars. Aren’t my transitions smooth?

Here’s a new ad for the Toyota Highlander that really rubs me the wrong way for so many reasons.

Reason #1: I’m thinking of replacing my sedan with a wagon. This ad is wrong. Wagons are super cool. They allow you to haul things and transport your dogs without looking like you’re taking up so much space in the universe and using up obscene quantities of valuable resources. This ad doesn’t show that SUVs have poor driving dynamics and are significantly more dangerous to drive than lower vehicles.

Reason #2: That little blonde kid is anything but cool. I bet he gets called names and gets beat up at school because of his girlish hair. His mother is probably his only friend which is why he’s so happy to see her after school.

Reason #3: The kid hiding in the bushes is almost a teenager. Show me one teenager who wasn’t embarrassed by his parents at some point. There is no scientific evidence to prove he was embarrassed by the wagon instead of his dad. The blond kid is much younger, still at that cute innocent age where children think their parents are awesome.

Reason #4: Seriously? “Buy this car because your kid thinks it’s cool”? The ad says nothing about the specs and features of the vehicle. Just shows that it is big enough for the kid to throw his backpack on board  and sit smugly in his seat.

Reason #5: The kid thinks his mother loves him but she does not. There was no car seat in sight.

November 15, 2010

The naming of things

I’m on a roll with this naming thing. An article in a French newspaper caught my attention the other day: it was about families suing an auto maker to protest against the name of a new car model. The latest addition to the Renault fleet produces very low emissions and is named “Zoe” (for ZerO Emission). This would be fine and dandy if Renault was not a common French last name (also spelled Renaud) and if Zoe wasn’t a fairly popular girl name. Parents are concerned their offspring (girls already called Zoe Renaud/lt) would be ridiculed by peers at school and later in life. Justice was rendered in favor of the automobile industry.

Before you laugh, this has already happened before and with the same brand. Back in the 1990s, Renault produced a model named “Megane” (the French equivalent of Megan). A bit later, a Renaud family wanted to name their daughter Mégane and was taken to court. Not by the car manufacturer but by the government out of concern for the girl’s mental well-being.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything like this happen in the States. This is the country where landmarks like arenas get renamed after soft drink companies after all. You’d never see that in France. But I digress.

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