I'm from the future, and I'm here to drive you
I told myself I wasn't going to be one of "those" Prius drivers. "I'm getting this car," I told myself, "because this is a nerd toy. A geek luxury device. Because, in short, it is from the future." I wasn't getting the car so I could become obsessed with gas mileage, and correct drivingthink, and so that I could enjoy the curiosity and adulation of fellow drivers.
And I wasn't. But they put a videogame inside my car, and it's not my fault.
I've had Saturns since I've had cars. This is my third car, and the first two were both variations on the Saturn sedan of the time. At first, I really liked the philosophy of Saturn, but over the past several years Carrie & I have both become fairly disillusioned with the increasingly poor customer service. After spending several hundred dollars to get an issue fixed with my Ion that ended up not being fixed anyway, requiring further repairs, I pretty much gave up. The Ion had been a Fine Vehicle, but I was ready for something... sexier. Cooler. Dare I say... Nerdier.
When I went shopping for the Ion in the early part of the century, we test drove the first version of the Prius. Regrettably, it kind of sucked for such tall and leggy people as ourselves. That, plus the incredible waiting lists for hybrids at the time, caused me to put the idea on the shelf of wistfulness. But now that a car replacement was on the table, Carrie's research found that the current cars had been substantially re-worked inside. We went to go test-drive a second generation Prius, and were pleasantly surprised. It felt roomy and awesome, handled well, and it was full of status displays and readouts.
Far forward to a month or two later. Research had been done. Pondering had been pondered. Hate for current car had escalated. Remaining administrative details necessary in order to unload old car had been dealt with. My car title was in hand, Apple stock was reasonably up, and I was ready to enter the future.
Those who know me will be unsurprised to know that I'm a fairly pragmatic liberal. My general rule of thumb is "try not to suck." I'm also probably the very definition of technocrat. So ever since I first heard about hybrid cars, my first thought was, "well, duh, that seems obvious -- why doesn't every car do that?" I mean, when I was 12 and didn't understand about things like entropy, I didn't understand why a car couldn't just run off the friction from spinning the wheels.
Well. Happy day.
It's important to note that the futurecar is not a magic bullet. Despite being rated at something like 50mpg, it'll still perform in fine mediocre fashion if you're spending lots of time between stoplights, accelerating a lot. (Where "mediocre" here is defined as "still better than my Ion" -- but more like 30mpg than the advertised 50mpg.) It'll also be totally happy to perform like a dancing pig if you drive it like one.
But they put this videogame inside my car, see.
It's a little bar. And when I accelerate, the little bar fills up. And if I can keep that little bar in the lines then I get more experience points! Or something like that. Maybe my combos fill up faster. All I know is that suddenly my car has a competitive angle.
I can also flip to this other display where I can find out how fast my XP is piling up:
Yeah -- a bar graph that breaks down my XP gains over the five minutes, or even by every minute. Honestly, I don't know why they didn't make the graph continuous like a CPU meter. Oh right -- it's because I'd never watch the road, and crash into a bus full of school-children who were on a science field trip. Because irony works like that.
So like I said. It's not my fault. They put a video game in my car. And now I'm determined to do better than that lame-ass 30mpg showing I have from the first 200 miles. Seriously -- what a noob.
But like I said, that's not actually why I bought the car. Remember that picture from the top of the entry? I bought the car because it looks like a goddamned spaceship. I seriously feel like I should be able to dock with a Federation starship in this thing. I'm continually searching for the laser beams.
My favorite feature -- especially in light of a problem I had with the Ion involving keys -- is that this thing is essentially keyless. I have the little keyfob, but in day-to-day operation it never comes out of my pocket. Here's how you unlock the car, assuming the keyfob is near the car:
Yeah. You pretty much just put your hand on the handle and pull. Here, then, is how you lock the car:
Words cannot describe how giddy this makes me.
Inside, the car looks like a spaceship as well:
You can't really see it in the picture, but there's actually a fair degree of three-dimensionality to the console display. Including, if you hold down buttons on the steering wheel, you get a little heads up display around the MPH readout:
Generally, the car just feels comfortable to ride in. It feels spacious on the inside without feeling like an SUV or a truck. The driver & passenger seats feel like little spacepods... but in a cool, comforting way. The built-in bluetooth smoothly picked up my phone when I sat in the car, and flipped it over into the car's speakerphone. The car starts by depressing a big power button, instead of making me mess around with juggling keys in addition to whatever else I'm carrying.
Seriously, it feels like I bought a laptop I can drive. I keep wanting to find some website where I can download new software for it.