Welcome to This Goddamn Ad, where I examine a recent car commercial and the reasons it deserves your scorn. First up is “Voices”, which is either an ad for the Infiniti Q50 or a PSA about schizophrenia. Hard to say, really.
We open on a man driving to work in his brand spankin’ new Q50. The man - let’s call him Kent - is thinking (or hearing voices) about a lot of things other than driving. Is he going to miss his deadline? Did he close the garage door? Is his dominatrix acting especially distant lately? Suddenly - and let’s reiterate, this is because Kent is not paying attention to the road whatsoever - he veers to the left and the lane departure warning sounds. Stay in your lane, Kent thinks firmly, making a mental note to punish himself later for that.
Sadly, the voices continue. I don’t think I sent that email. I should make a reservation. I can’t wait to have hot wax dripped all over my back. Kent drifts again, this time almost taking out an E46 as the blind spot warning goes off. At this point, he’s basically the poster child for how distracted driving is just as bad as drunk driving. A disinterested Ohhh, I thought it was clear is all Kent can muster at this point as he pilots a two-ton missile down a public road.
Finally, Kent finds himself on a one lane, one way road. What could go wrong? All you have to do is drive straight. My dead grandmother can drive straight (I believe this is actually possible). But Kent, Kent is a man of many interests. He cannot be expected to stay focused on anything longer than a few seconds, especially with all those voices in his head. And so just as the large van in front of him brakes, he turns his head and takes his eyes completely off the road for no apparent reason. A rear-ender is imminent; karma is about to catch up with this man. But the Q50’s collision warning snaps him back to reality, and he manages to slow down in time. I didn’t see that coming. No duh, Kent. That’s probably because you weren’t looking.
This is all infuriating to watch, no doubt. But Infiniti manages to take it to the next level with the tagline - “Its instinct to protect leaves you free to drive.” I’m sorry, what was that? At what point was Kent doing anything resembling driving in those thirty awful seconds? Every single one of those aids are designed to activate when you mess up, when you are paying attention to something other than the immediate and vital task of safely operating a moving vehicle. And here we have a commercial that basically says these systems will make you invincible, that you can just float along in a computerized cloud with a radar-enforced buffer zone endangering everyone else while you focus on everything except driving like a person with a brain.
I know we’re making some jokes here, but the proverbial seriously folks, this commercial is propagating a dangerous point of view. I get it, people are busy, and as the demands on our time and attention grow more numerous every day they’re going to invade previously off-limits areas of our lives, like driving. Automakers have a mixed record when it comes to combating distracted driving - they’ve done a good job integrating hands-free support into even base model cars, but a lot of these infotainment systems have introduced new diversions.
The main problem is that we have two streams of automotive technology - automation and turn-your-car-into-a-phone-ication - progressing and mixing in a way that can only result in a proliferation of inattentive drivers. Automakers have decided it’s better business to protect people from themselves rather than encourage them to be more careful in every sense of the word, and the results are commercials like these touting the “ability” to drive recklessly without consequence as the ultimate luxury. We are left to hope that these streams can keep up with each other, so that as people are encouraged to turn their cars into mobile living rooms and pay less attention to the task at hand, they don’t put their faith and fate in safety tech that’s not quite there yet.
Feeling uneasy? For now, just watch out for a grey Q50 with a masochist behind the wheel. That guy can’t drive at all.