Shanti Emerson: My car is smarter than I am |

Shanti Emerson: My car is smarter than I am

Shanti Emerson

I get a new automobile every three years. This is good, because I benefit from the latest technology. My 2019 SUV is smarter than I am.

I almost didn’t get this car. I lease cars instead of buying them. It’s the best way to get new cars. This time, I returned my 2016 car a couple of months early and went to the Roseville Mall to get a good deal. I ended up with a very simple car with few features. I was furious when I found out what I’d done. I’d assumed that it would be like my other SUVs except more high tech.

I called the showroom the same day to see if I could return it, knowing that automobiles are exempt from the 72-hour cooling off period affecting almost everything else including home purchases. No, they wouldn’t let me return it.

As time went on, I got more and more irritated with my new wheels. I went to speak to my lawyer. She said I would have to raise hell to get something done about this purchase.

I always obey my car. As I said, she’s smarter than me.

I’d handled situations like this before and knew that I had to have leverage. So I called the corporate customer service and they took up my case. A young rep called the general manager, told him about my complaint and kept up with me about the results of her calls. After a couple of months, they offered me a much better car for about $50 more a month. It was well worth the extra dollars … and has probably saved me from having a wreck a few times now.

If I drift off while driving, my car will let me know it will slam on my brakes if I don’t do so first. I always obey my car. As I said, she’s smarter than me.

If I change lanes without signaling, my auto will let me know and chastise me. If I leave my keys in the car and think I’ve locked the doors, I haven’t. I have to take those keys with me. I cannot lock the doors with my keys left inside.

When I walk out of Safeway, I’m not always sure where I parked. So I just press my remote until I hear the soft whine of my vehicle, and there she is. My car reads me books through my phone. The manufacturers don’t include CD players any more — too old fashioned.

If I forget my cell phone, my car will remind me that it isn’t there, so I can go retrieve it before I leave. My SUV stores my phone numbers, answers my cell and reads me my texts. I can even answer the texts by pressing a single button.

My vehicle beeps if she is in reverse warning people passing behind me that I am coming out. It also signals me if there is a car approaching from either side. I have a screen that shows me what’s happening behind me, which is good as I’ve had a rear-ender.

If there are other silver cars nearby, I’ll know mine as the license plate holder is bright pink. How sweet!

Of course, she lets me know how much gasoline I have left, but also the number of miles I can drive before I need a refill.

I have all kinds of choices for music and lots of nooks and crannies to store my stuff. There’s a place where I can leave my dark glasses. I have a keyless start button. I just have to remember to step on the brakes as I press the button.

As I grow older, my nervousness in driving increases as my skills decrease. On a trip to Reno last week, I was really scared driving on the freeways. My palms were wet, and my stomach was tight. I didn’t even stop by Trader Joe’s for the first time.

Now mind you, I was speeding on Houston freeways when I was 15 and raced on Los Angeles freeways in my 30s. No fear at all. But the older I get, the whiter my knuckles. I use Uber or Lyft when I visit cities I formerly lived in. Those freeways are just too dangerous. However I am so familiar with Highway 49, that I have no qualms at all driving it.

Perhaps one day, we’ll all have driverless cars and won’t have to worry about the speed or where to turn. We’ll just let our autos do the driving while we take a nap.

So now I’m dependent on all the gadgets on my car, and my car is dependent on the accuracy of its sensors and cameras. What would happen if my sensors no longer worked? Would I drive safely?

I’m glad I have a car more intelligent than me.

Shanti Emerson is a Nevada County resident and a member of The Union Editorial Board. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the board or its members. She can be reached at

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