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Who's in Control?

     Got a new car. Lots of new technology on it. But no problem, driving's driving. Hands on the steering wheel, foot on the accelerator. Just like always. Except for the parking brake. My new Buick Regal doesn't have one; it has a quarter-inch square button with a miniature "P" on it. That's it. Thank goodness the salesman showed it to me. I would've missed it entirely.  

     "You just pull up on it," he demonstrated. I couldn't see what he did because his finger was bigger than the button, but he must've pulled it up because a brilliantly red "P" showed up on the dash, followed by a message behind the steering wheel saying the parking brake had been applied and did we want to dismiss the message but before I could reach over to dismiss anything the message disappeared. The red "P" stayed.

     "See how easy that was? Now, if you want to take the brake off, just press here." He touched the tiny button again. This time he pushed it down—I guess. I really couldn't see, but the red P didn't disappear. Instead a new message appeared. "You must put your foot on the brake pedal to engage the parking brake." He put his foot on the brake pedal, pressed the tiny button and the red P went away and the message said the parking brake had been disengaged and did we want to dismiss the message?

     Harder to adjust to was the wonderful backup view. When you put the car in reverse, a video of two orange parallel lines running out into the street behind you shows up on a large screen in the middle of the dash. More orange lines run perpendicular to the parallel lines, making a backward moving grid. If anything dares enter this grid, you must slam on your brakes before you hit whatever it is.

     It's kind'a hard to look at a moving screen in front of you when you're steering tons of metal backward but I gave it a good shot the first time—I only turned around once to check the street behind me; otherwise I kept my eyes on the orange grid lines, which, sad to say, got me in big trouble.

     A new message appeared: "WARNING. You should never take your eyes off the road for more than a few seconds when driving. Serious accidents could occur." How did the car know where I was looking? Was there a spy-eye somewhere? Does it recognize my irises? Will it scold anyone with the wrong irises who tries to drive my car, or just me?

     Thoroughly chastised, I'm backing up properly now. I look behind me and to the left and to the right—just like I did in my other cars where there was no spy-eye watching me, but to make sure I keep the spy-eye happy, I glance at the backup screen once or twice.

     Just as I'm getting accustomed to all this new technology, my car sends me a message on my Android phone; tells me its left front tire pressure is down and needs air. I wasn't even in the car and for sure I hadn't seen anyone out in the driveway checking my tire pressure. Before the call came in, I was enjoying a few quiet moments at home with the latest news. Okay, maybe I wasn't enjoying it that much…

     The owner's manual was a great help until I discovered that half the stuff in there isn't on my car and the options that are on my car, I'd already figured out by trial and error. Lots of error—and no, I'm not looking forward to driving a driverless car. I've lost enough control as it is.

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