Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Live Twice

Chandler at the New School made me collect, collate and sort my thoughts on the whole recall issue.  Although what follows is more like bend, fold and mutilate.

The greatest risk Toyotas pose to me is that I get drowsy rolling down the highway with nothing more interesting to divert me than continual rivulet of pale metallic four door boredom. 
Not incongruent to their exterior aesthetics, my personal reaction to the Toyotathon of Death falls in two barrels.
  1. Risk of correctly engineered and manufactured product v. risk of incorrectly engineered and faulty product.   A base assumption in driving a recently produced auto is that, not only will it advance the spark automatically and not require a crank to start, but also that the accelerator will not get stuck open.   If Toyota had labeled one of their transportation appliances with the label “May very rarely yet randomly accelerate,” prudent drivers would familiarize themselves with the emergency stopping procedures.   However, Toyota did not disclose this information until much later, so the information was not available for calculation into a driving risk scenario.  Drivers were operating under a “Toyota quality” assumption.   Would the driver of a Trabant exercise the same risk equation as a Prius or Highlander driver?
  2. The Mediation of the Road.  The current Toyota passenger car philosophy appears to be a closer cousin to Kitchen Aid than TF109.  This transportation appliance paradigm isolates the user (no longer a driver) from the grit, grime and smells of the road, substituting an ego coddling display of eco-righteousness and pretty maps.  How could the impolite fangs of risk driven adrenaline ever intrude into the quiet gentle rocking motions of hybrid power in a sarcophagus of LED illuminated soft plastics? The white knuckling pilot of the beater Pinto or the hyper vigilant  motorcyclist know no such peace. They know the road is a dangerous place, and that they are engaged in high risk behavior.  Unintended acceleration is one of myriad annihilation scenarios coursing ten thousand times a second through their oxygen deprived neurons.  Driving for them is like conducting transactions of the internet.   
Tangentially, yet incongruously, I once had a notion (but with a bit of backing...) that the ultimate design for a website used to conduct high dollar Internet transactions would be modeled after a mid-90s "adult" entertainment website – HTTP Auth pop-up, sloppy HotDog generated HTML, broken icon indicating missing plug-ins, probably registered at .biz, .info, .ru or .cx.  The customers would perceive the risk and exercise due caution, such as verifying the SSL certificate, maybe out-of-band telephone call to the institution, and routine changes of password for every session.  The site could be state of the art secure (y’know, SSL + firewall ), but the appearance of danger and perception of risk would make it Yet Still Even More So.   Of course, the crappiness would have to have a periodic refresh just to keep the users’ adrenaline up.

Toyota photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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