Ford Thumbs its Nose at Distracted Driving Facts

Do corporate capitalists really commit highly-researched mass murder in order to reap their profits?  You bet your expendable “consumer” ass they do.

Today’s example:  The Ford Motor Company’s promulgation of its “Sync” package of telecommunications interfaces in the dashes of new cars and trucks.

Among many other extremely dangerous things, the newest version of “Sync” is going to add hands-free text messaging to the increasingly distracted driving experience.

A long train of independent research has shown that the use of hands-free cellular telephones provides little or no safety benefit compared to hands-on use.

Given that text messages are inherently denser and not genuinely live and interactive, even when converted to audio, they almost certainly require quite a bit more attention than does a phone conversation.  Hence, hands-free texting is virtually certain to contribute to thousands of additional automobile deaths every year.

Ford cares not:

“[Sync] is a reason now to buy a Ford,” Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally said in an interview.

“Sync is easy to sell to a person under 35,” said John Wolkonowicz, an analyst at IHS Global Insight of Lexington, Massachusetts. “Sync is about entertainment and connectivity, which is very Gen Y.”

To the extent it bothers to explain its murder-for-money, Ford relies on the old tobacco corporation gambit:  Fudge-talk about unreleased internal “studies”:

Ford, which has endorsed legislation to outlaw texting while driving, said its research indicates that hands-free communication doesn’t distract drivers.

“Most of the industry studies show that just driving and just talking is the same,” Kuzak said. “As long as the customer’s eyes are on the road, they are not compromised.”

And our public servants’ response to this blatant bullshit?  Nothing, nada, nil.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood testified Oct. 29 that he found Ford’s Sync system distracting when he tested it on a Taurus sedan during a visit to Dearborn.

“As much as I liked driving the Taurus and as much as I liked the Sync system where you put your BlackBerry in and it syncs all your numbers, it’s a distraction,” LaHood told a House highways subcommittee at a hearing on distracted driving.

Despite this personal finding of the highest transportation official in the land, literally nothing is being done to block Sync and its counterpart plans at the other car corporations.

At the level of social criticism, this increasing encroachment of entertainment and marketing on the space of the car-driver is still more proof of the totalitarian nature of corporate capitalism.  As somebody once noted:

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.

Even when the invasions and expansions begin to threaten the future viability of the system’s own core commodity!

Penetrating the Car: A Marketing Metastasis Update

the spirit of BBM They can’t stop. The system they serve is literally insatiable. Every newly “penetrated” then saturated life-sphere can only serve as a stepping stone to the next. Unending profit-making simply must find new necks to bite, or more places in which it can bite existing ones.

The latest off-the-job time/place about to have its penetration level increased is none other than the insides of corporate capitalism’s most important product — the private automobile.

This week’s edition of Advertising Age contains a report titled “Why Your Car May Soon Be Driving Digital Advertising.” It is penned by one Steve Rubel, a marketing practitioner and blogger leading the coming overclass race to insert more and better videographic marketing stimuli into the car.

banality of evilRubel reports:

If you think there’s already enough to distract you in your life, just wait. With Americans spending 100 hours a year commuting, according to the Census Bureau, the internet is coming to your car in a big way — and not just to the front seat either.

As is so often the case in our super-capitalist society, the technological basis for this coming penetration is an artifact of past marketing operations:

Dashboard navigation systems provide a natural entry point. Year-over-year unit sales of GPS devices grew nearly 500% during the 2007 holiday season, according to NPD.

This seems to me to be a textbook case of big business marketers turning a molehill of legitimate need into a mountain of profitable sales. I haven’t seen hard numbers (which may itself be a sign of the importance of the corporate pushing behind the “demand” for GPS), but the actual use of GPS systems almost cannot be high or important in the large majority of automotive trips, which are commutes to and from highly familiar places. Instead, I’d wager heavily that GPS marketers, probing like all BBMers for profitable buttons to push, know full-well that most people think they get lost much more than they actually do, and are thus susceptible to the sell. Pair that vulnerability with a back ground of marketing-encouraged techno-festishism and the difficulty of thinking of Christmas and birthday presents in this hyper-commodified society, and there you have it…

But whatever the rational and irrational reasons for their spread may be, the fact is that GPS units are now inside a great many cars. That has big meaning for corporate marketers, as Rubel explains:

Several GPS manufacturers such as Tele Atlas, which supplies systems to the automakers, already display the logos of nearby fast-food restaurants’ gas stations. However, the screens are quickly getting more useful — or cluttered, depending on your point of view. Navigon’s high-end model, for example, features helpful restaurant reviews and ratings from Zagat.

Soon, devices that can both send and receive data will hit the market. Dash, for example, is integrating Web 2.0 crowdsourcing into its systems, allowing cars to send information back to the company to improve traffic calculations. As mobile broadband becomes more ubiquitous, it’s conceivable that these devices will soon talk to your cellphone via Bluetooth and, thus, talk to social networks as well.

With send/receive capabilities and overall bandwidth improving, local contextual advertising, perhaps rich-media-based, is just around the corner. Google already allows users in Europe to send directions from the web to maps on connected dashboards. Microsoft is working in a system through its Sync technology to provide ad-supported, location-based information for which users would normally pay. (Disclosure: Microsoft and Zagat are clients of Edelman, my employer.)

As is so often the case, the primary victims of the coming blitzkrieg will be children:

The back seat offers perhaps more immediate promise for TV advertisers in search of new venues. In March Sirius and Chrysler launched an in-car video network called Backseat TV. The subscription service carries kids programming from Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel and Cartoon Network. Kids weaned on the service will surely demand more as the technology gets more sophisticated, perhaps to the chagrin of parents.

And therein lies the rub: Marketers will need to strike a careful balance to protect privacy and to not push into a space that many consider sacrosanct. However, given the size and captive nature of the in-car audience, the digital-advertising potential is becoming very clear.

Translation of that last bit into honest English goes like this: “Marketers will have to be careful and gentle as we insert our tools of coercion into another place (like every prior place) where we know people don’t want it. Despite our constant public professions that we only use marketing to gather information to make us better servants of people’s independent desires, clear knowledge that we’re utterly unwelcome in this new sphere, of course, will not and cannot stop us.”

The moral of this story? To the extent it can continue to outrun its own mounting wastes and dangers, corporate capitalism means the eventual total destruction of free time. Genuinely independent free time, of course, is nothing less than a necessary prerequisite for intelligent citizenship and, thus, democracy.

As somebody once remarked, to such questions, the capitalist asks: “Ought these to trouble us, since they increase our profits?”

Ford’s Latest Lie: “All Things are Possible”

We humans are at or extremely near the top of the Peak Oil curve.

Alas, the corporate capitalist investors who dictate which technologies we may use are also intractably addicted to selling cars. They will continue to attempt to do so, no matter the costs, until we remove them from power.

Meanwhile, ponder the Huxleyan/Orwellian (that’s the worst-of-both-worlds character of our unchallenged, rampaging overclass) nature of the waste-pushing propositions they continue to foist upon us. The latest to strike my eye is Ford’s shocking attempt to sell people new cars by saving them 5 or 6 button-pushes a day: “Sync.”

Yes, friends, what we all need to do is boost “our” economy by spending $40,000 on another huge, toxic, petroleum-guzzling contraption, all so that we can turn on the stereo without having to move our fingers! “All things are possible,” say Ford and its partner-in-this-crime, Microsoft, as they announce this glorious breakthrough in human civilization!

Not only is this tag-line mega-laughable in this bought-and-paid-for, market-totalitarian madhouse of a nation, but it is also patently, egregiously, and especially relevantly untrue. The laws of thermodynamics that govern the known universe contradict the childish statement that “all things are possible.” Some things are possible. That’s it.

Meanwhile, very high on the list of impossible things in this universe is the sustainability of the USA’s auto-über-alles transportation order beyond another few decades, at most…