I currently have a Volvo XC90 sitting in my driveway, and I honestly haven’t had a chance to drive it that much just yet. This morning, thanks to a chronic bus driver shortage that so far my state has not resorted to solving with a bunch of deadbeat teenagers like they did years ago, I had to drive the kid to school. I used this errand as a chance to try out this big, new, boldly-modern mild hybrid Volvo SUV, and while doing so I learned about one of the smallest and yet possibly most useful features of this and a few other modern automobiles: a little nag to tell you to get your ass in gear when you’re at a stoplight or something and haven’t noticed that it’s time to move. Is this another example of AI taking jobs? Is the car taking the job of the impatient dickhead behind you who lays on the horn 0.74 seconds after the light goes green?
Granted, the warning doesn’t ask, loudly, if that light is green enough for you, or helpfully inquires what your fucking problem is, or even query you regarding what specific clown college or university you learned to drive at, like a human driver behind you might, but rather just dings a little chime and gives you this gentle cajoling:
“Ready to drive?” it asks, knowing damn well you should be ready, but for whatever inane reason, aren’t. I saw my first one of these messages at a stoplight when I checked the buzzing of Slack to see that David was livid at my misuse of the subjunctive mood or I dangled a participle or misused a semi-delamorphic contraction subclause or some shit like that. As I was trying to figure out what diphthong I misplaced, the light turned green, the car in front of me drove off and before the person behind me could smack palm to horn button, the Volvo awoke me from my ill-advised reverie with a chime and a message, snapping me back to reality — a reality that required me to get my ass in gear and drive.
Volvo isn’t the only company to implement a feature like this; Hyundai-Kia has offered a hey, get moving alert for a while, calling it “Leading Vehicle Departure Alert”:
One thing worth noting about Kia/Hyundai’s system and Volvo’s is that it seems to work based on checking the car in front of yours. From Volvo’s description of the alert, which uses the front radar that’s there primarily as part of Adaptive Cruise Control:
The car’s system can help the driver to notice that the vehicle ahead is continuing to drive. In order not to be stationary for too long and hold up the traffic, the Ready to drive notification function gives an acoustic signal and shows a symbol and message in the driver’s display.
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Counterpoint: all this feature does is facilitate the terrible habit of picking up your damn phone every time you have 5 seconds to spare, anywhere you may be.
My Polestar does this too, unsurprisingly, being a Volvo at heart.
Before the Polestar, I had a Seat which did something similar. Only it was actually really really annoying. It would re-start the engine, trying to be helpful, if the car in front pulled away. Thing is, it was a manual car so the physical act of putting it into gear means that it didn’t save any time by restarting the engine, and most importantly, it would normally get it wrong.
It would see the car in front of the car in front driving off, and start. Even though that was just the last car getting through the lights. It would see a car a long way off moving, and re-start. It was infuriating. I like stop/start – but I want to be in control of restarting, not the damn car.
I believe it’s tied with having ACC – my previous car was a Skoda which had the radar, but no ACC, and it didn’t do it.
My first question is can it be turned off.
A.) 0.74 seconds is more than enough time to get your fat foot from the brake to the gas pedal.
B.) I want the damn thing to shout GREEN! GREEN! GREEN! like a NASCAR spotter during a Green White Checker restart. That’s what I’m doing in the car behind.