Do you drive a car? Or does yours drive you?

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Jim Hightower's Radio Lowdown
Jim Hightower's Radio Lowdown

Do you drive a car? Or does yours drive you?

Our vehicles are no longer simple mechanical devices, but sophisticated computers on wheels, with minds of their own. Even the basics of steering, accelerating, and braking are guided by onboard electronic sensors that “think” faster than us human types and can override our actions. Of course, many cars now “talk” to us as well, giving us various driving and maintenance instructions (often in chiding tones).

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But now comes a step beyond. Rather than mere physical control of our ride, cars are being created to control our emotions when we’re behind the wheel. For example, have you smelled a Ford lately?

In a move that would leave old Henry whopperjawed, Ford executives have employed engineers to come up with an overall olfactory experience that says “Ford.” Dubbed the “smell jury,” these expert sniffers are assessing odors emitted by everything from seat covers to cup holders, hoping to create a scent that “produces a sense of well-being inside a Ford.”

Hmmm… sounds a bit subjective, doesn’t it? After all, some customers would love the odor of, say, apple pie baking in the oven, while others of us enjoy nothing more than a nostril full of fragrant compost being worked into a garden. Perhaps we’ll be offered odoriferous choices, such as we now get in car colors.

Speaking of which, some cars already come with ambient interior lighting, featuring colors that can be adjusted to fit one’s mood. But be careful – some technological advances can turn on you. For example, what if your vehicle decided on its own to blink off that calming hue of “Mellow Green” as you’re creeping through rush hour traffic, switching abruptly to “Road Rage Red?”

Just because the tech teams can mess endlessly with our cars doesn’t mean they should.

“Smelled a Ford Lately?”, August 26, 2010.

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