Ghosts in the machine

I’ve a new car.    I’ve had it for exactly two months now.   I’d like to say that I can buy a new car because I studied hard at school and worked diligently at my lessons and then by careful application of my skills climbed the corporate ladder to success and glory.

Or, I got lucky in getting a job 25 years ago and as nobody knows what I do there’s no way they can get rid of me.   I’ll leave you to decide.

The chap in the VW dealership and I had a great 3 hour conversation about how much I wanted to pay for my car,  We had wildly different ideas about value for money.   I found that every time I put my coat on to leave the price of the car came down a little bit.  This particular car was a three coat negotiation before he finally agreed with me.

So I’ve been getting used to the new wheels.   My last (also VW) car was definitely a mid life crisis vehicle.   A little convertible thing that was frequently described as my “hairdresser car”.   This time I’m beyond mid life crisis and have regressed to boy racer with all of the bells and whistles.    The challenge is that the car thinks it is smarter than me.    I think it might be sentient.

I had cause to drive north today.   Not too far north but north enough to notice that it was chilly and north enough that the customer I was visiting was comfortable with being blunt (or “not beating around the bush” as he put it).

The car has a little TV in it that I like to think of as the command centre.   It’s touch screen (naturally) and has a bevvy of buttons surrounding it (many years ago when shopping for a car with my son we chose a car solely on the number of buttons on the dashboard) that make the screen do different things.

I selected “NAV” and told it where I wanted to go.   In the UK the easiest way to get around is by using post codes but my car, being Germanic only pretends to know about post codes.   It happily accepts them but then comments that it doesn’t know any of the streets around the post code.   I’m okay with this.   If the car can get me close then my bloke radar can get me the last few miles.

The route to this particular location is easy.  M4, M25, M1, A421, A1 and I’m there.  I only asked the car because, well, because I can.   The car had very different ideas about which way to go.  It had a plan to head in to the most congested part of West London because of “delays on the original route”.   I ignored it.   I’m smarter than my car (and I told it so when I hit the M25, it ignored me but then I’d have done the same if it was me).

The car likes to take care of me.   It has this function whereby if it thinks I am falling asleep it gets all panicky and beeps and trills in a slightly nervous voice.   I amuse myself on quiet days by pretending to nod off.   It’s like having R2D2 as a back seat passenger.   I do wonder after today whether I have perhaps stressed it out too much though.

I overtook a bus.   The bus was stopped (it was the H28, not going anywhere exciting, that’s probably why it was stopped) so I snuck along the outside of it .   The car had a fit!    Not only did it beep and trill and (probably) scream with anxiety because there was a car coming in the other direction it decided that I was going to stop and put the brakes on.   You have no idea how disconcerting it is to be toodling along at 6am in the morning to find that your car has decided to stop because it thinks you are going to crash.

We had words.   Mostly four letter ones whilst I flicked through the manual looking for the page that should obviously be titled “How to stop the car from being a cissy when you’re overtaking a bus and there’s a car  coming the other way and the gap is only big enough to fit an oil tanker through and not a VW Golf”.  I couldn’t find the page that referenced this but once I find the function it will be turned off.

The sat nav continued to know better than me.   I almost turned it off but I was fascinated by where it suggested I should go and it was better than listening to the cricket score.

The car also does that thing whereby when I stop, the engine stops and when I press the accelerator the engine starts again.   I can fool it by giving the gas pedal a gentle nudge and it then starts up only to huff in an indignant manner if we don’t move off (a screen pops up saying “ECO tip – do not run the engine when stationary”).   It likes to give me eco tips.    If you open the window whilst driving at more than 30 miles an hour it says “ECO tip – Open windows cause drag”.    I’m guessing that this doesn’t mean it is expecting me to dress up in a frock and high heels but you just never know.

I stopped in a motorway services for a bit of a break.   Walking towards the, ahem, facilities and my mobile started ringing (as it does from time to time).  I answered it (as one is expected to do) and although the caller could hear me clearly I couldn’t hear them.  As I strolled back to the car I could hear them very clearly coming from out of the car.   The car had decided that although I’d gone, I was still in bluetooth range so obviously wanted to talk over the car speakers.

The most disconcerting thing though, and this has me a little concerned, was after I decided to give in and sit in the car to take the call.    After about 5 minutes the car started by itself.   There I was, just about to tell the caller to press Ctrl-Alt-Delete and the engine kicked into life.   I think that the car may have decided that I was going to be late and was hurrying me up.

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