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How many times have you been driving down the road, minding your own business, and suddenly someone is blowing their horn at you? It’s disconcerting — alarming, even. You’re immediately forced to look around, wondering if you’re about to have an accident or if you just ran a red light or cut someone off. To make matters worse, sometimes you never find out!
As a communication device, the horn is severely lacking. First of all, it’s one-way communication. Second, it’s pretty one-dimensional. A beep to say hello sounds startlingly like a beep to say “Hey you’re about to hit a tree!”
We can do better.
There have been some pretty decent developments in heads-up displays, and I think that technology needs to be better leveraged. Consider a world where all cars are wirelessly connected in a network that allows for two-way communication with vehicles within a certain proximity. Add to that a head-up display with a motion-aware input. Instead of blowing your horn, you could point to the car you’re trying to contact and send a message to the driver, which would appear on that car’s HUD.
Before you get all worked up, I already see the huge flaw here: the abusive language and other harassment that could come from it. That could be handled through a content filter, or by a predetermined set of messages. You don’t really want drivers reading long messages on their windshield while they’re supposed to be watching the road, so there would have to be a character limit as well.
In addition, these wired cars could make driving safer and cut down on the number of traffic cops on the road by pulling and reporting data to the driver during the trip. Imagine if your heads-up display could show you the speed limit on the road you were traveling, warn you of a stop light or dangerous curve ahead? Imagine if your HUD could tell you when you’ve run a red light. I’m not proposing that each car would report each infraction back to police HQ, where your ticket would be processed and mailed to you; the mere fact that a driver has all the information needed as they drive would certainly help keep them in line.
Now, the first production car with a heads-up display was the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. In 1988. That’s more than 20 years ago, and we haven’t figured out how to use it yet?
By “we” I mean “they.” Obviously my part of the “we” construct has figured it out just fine.