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DRAWN OFF TOPIC

Comedian Paul Chato on intelligent cars Add to ...

Paul Chato is a member of The Frantics comedy troupe, which is launching its latest DVD in October. The Frantics video, seen at www.thefrantics.com, has gone viral (3.7 million viewers and counting) on funnyordie.com.

Do you drive?

Yes, of course.

Well?

Hmm. I honestly think it is probably deteriorating as age approaches.

Cars are being made smarter, so you can get dumber. Deterioration doesn’t matter any more.

I don’t think [drivers]are getting dumber, I think they are doing dumb things with all the smart stuff in their car. When you see people looking down while they’re driving, obviously texting or on their phone or the mega-entertainment system, now that’s scary.

What do you drive?

I have a little Mercedes B.

Does it have all the gizmos – video player, GPS, voice-activated anything?

It has no gizmos. I’m a totally geeked-out guy. I purposely got a car that doesn’t even have power seats. I hate all the extra gizmos.

For ’60s kids, the James Bond car was the coolest thing: machine guns, smokescreens, an ejector seat. Did you want one of those?

Absolutely! I still have my Secret Sam briefcase with hidden gun and hidden camera inside it! Right now, Mercedes has a car where, if you fall asleep at the wheel, it will actually stop the car or prevent you from crashing into the car in front. That’s really different from sending oil out your tailpipes, causing the car behind you to spin.

Cars that can parallel park themselves are now available. Do you think that’s a good development?

No. I think it’s really bad. We’re abdicating mental activity to automation. It makes me think of a Stanislaw Lem story. A Polish sci-fi writer. Two washing machine companies are competing against one another and each makes their washing machine more intelligent than the other, to the point where they gain sentience – and eventually kill off humanity. I think that’s where we’re heading.

At some point, a car is going to go: “No, I am not going to parallel park your stupid car. Die!” And the car is going to fill up with poison gas.

Soon, cars will not just parallel park themselves but take over all the driving functions. Working prototypes now exist. The idea is to remove the human error that causes accidents.

It’s not an accident. I have always hated that term. It’s a crash. I call them crashes. Accident absolves the driver of responsibility. It is important to live in a society where people understand that they are responsible. These gadgets just add to “Well, its not my fault.”

You say machines cause us to abdicate human responsibility. I presume you have spell-check …

Uh, yeah.

Is that an abdication? Can you spell parallel?

Uh oh. Don’t ask me. I’d have a hard time.

Most of us would. So why not transfer that thinking to cars. Shouldn’t people want cars that are smarter than they are?

It’s an arms race among auto makers. It’s like software. How much better does Microsoft word need to be? We have reached a point of saturation and idiocy.

The intention of ever-more intelligent cars is to eradicate human error, which is a good thing, but isn’t the effect to infantilize drivers, to pander to the lazy and lousy ones and make them, in fact, worse drivers?

Yes, there will be more worse drivers because we will now be given permission to drive worse.

Or not drive at all: Just sit back and let the car drive.

What happens if there’s a crash and they take the CPU from the car and to court and the CPU hires a lawyer and says, “I was distracted by the human driver. It wasn’t my fault!”

Do you have faith in technology? Will machines always get it right – at 120 kilometres an hour?

No. I think they can get pretty close, but do you disconnect the driver completely from the operation? What if they get drunk and flop over the steering wheel, take over and crash? Every good intention turns to crap – [it’s]where most of my comedy comes from.

I think driving is one of the most enjoyable things humans can do.

The thinking seems to be that having your car drive you to work frees one from the mundane chores that presumably are keeping drivers from finding a cure for leukemia. But what’s more likely to happen is people will use that time to wallow in distractions – texting, twittering, applying eye shadow – all things they used to do while driving.

Obviously. I yelled at some woman who drove right by me lighting a cigarette and holding a cellphone under her chin. I said, “Cellphones are illegal, lady!” and she just gave me the finger.

Trivial distractions are what people want.

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