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Ticket = Innovation Opportunity!

Sunday, May 22 2005

I caught myself pondering something as I was driving today: “I assume deaf people are allowed to drive without restriction – so why do ‘in ear’ headphone manufacturers make sure you know that they shouldn’t be used while driving because they impair your hearing – what specific issues might you run into that would make not hearing a serious or life threatening disadvantage while driving?”.

It became clear immediately as I heard the attention grabbing sort of “buzz buzz” noise that police cars have and their drivers use to get someone’s attention. In this case, the someone being pulled over was daydreaming, and not paying attention to two things: his speed or his rearview mirror.

When the Sheriff asked if I knew why he pulled me over, I told him I was daydreaming and hadn’t noticed I slipped above the limit. He said “Oh yeah, what about?”, genuinely (he was a nice guy). I told him about my quandary over driving deaf and he said “you know, funny you should mention that – the last person I pulled over was deaf, and it took me three miles to get them to pull over – I had to get beside them and motion to them to pull over, which took easily a few minutes.”

So, after he gave me a nice fat ticket (no sales tax = expensive traffic tickets) and we parted ways, two things came to mind: radar/laser detector, and this idea:

It’d be cool if all cars had WiFi, including Police cars, and while driving, each created a mesh network. Maybe we’d all have Macs in our cars, and it would be like Bonjour (formerly Rendezvous). Each car computer would discover others nearby, and temporary ad hoc networks would form. I’m not new in this thinking at all – Rael and I talked about this a while back (he had lots of similar ideas which he should write about sometime soon, nudge nudge).

Our in board computers could enable handsfree or single button pushing to active audio chat sessions with nearby drivers. You could chew someone out, or ask someone for directions, or have a police officer cut in and say “would you mind pulling over, the lights are freakin’ people out”. Kids on road trips could play networked games with other kids nearby, and maybe while waiting in line in a drive through you could order from a web page rather than wait to yell into a box.

There would be kinks to iron out, and the extreme temporary nature of the networks would require some clever ideas (which I fully encourage), but wouldn’t that be interesting?