When it comes to Christmas lists, grown-ups for years have been asking for things like world peace and goodwill toward others.
I set my sights a little lower -- where the rubber meets the road.
Here are a few things some friends and I came up with that we'd like to see on cars -- some far-fetched enough for Santa, but some not so much. Does this inspire you, dear reader, to generate some of your own ideas? Email your ideas to me and maybe I'll be able to add more next week.
Unlocking made easy: The holidays are a time of reminiscing. So gather 'round, kiddies, and listen to my story of the olden days. Once upon a time, people had to have their keys in their hands and put them into the actual lock to unlock their doors or open the trunk.
Then automakers, looking to make our lives easier, gave us the key fob, which has become standard issue in the last 15 years. Then they added a button to open the liftgate, which is still sold only as an option on most vehicles. Now, some doors will unlock with a wave of the hand as long as the key fob is with us.
Why not take this to its next logical step? Many are the times I'm loaded down with a briefcase for work, my lunch and a bag full of papers to grade. I want to keep all these items on the seat next to me. Why can't I open the driver's door with the press of a button?
I don't mean simply unlock it. I want the door to slowly open and grant me entrance. A red carpet would be quite optional.
Speaking of bags: I have requests for automakers from several female friends, including author Maura Zagrans, who writes: "I just told my son last night that what car manufacturers need to figure out is how to install a purse hook or some kind of shelf that will hold the handbag belonging to Mrs. Driver Seat. Most of us choose our purses with care and we take good care of them. I abhor having to set mine onto the floor of a home, restaurant, airplane, car, church or any other place in which I find myself."
That seems like an easy one.
Real driving reports: I focused an earlier column on high-tech traffic enforcement and using technology in the best possible way, and since then I've worked this idea out completely.
Now that we have black boxes that record driving data and GPS that tells us where we are in relation to other objects on the road, let's put them together for real driving feedback.
As I strive every day to be the best Mr. Driver's Seat I can be, I wouldn't mind getting a report telling me how wonderfully I'd done getting from point A to point B.
One time, while traveling home late at night, I'd just gotten off the interstate and turned onto a four-lane highway with a series of traffic lights. I moved into the left lane to get around a truck and was about three hundred feet from a stoplight.
Someone in the oncoming lane must have blanked out and didn't realize I was there because the car made a left turn directly in front of me. Without thinking, I swerved hard to the left, all the while seeing the abject terror on the faces of the people in the car headed for me. We missed by thismuch. I swerved back to the right, exhaled, and immediately pulled off the road and contemplated a change of shorts.
I really wish that kind of moment could have been recorded for posterity. Plus, regular feedback is a learning opportunity. "Cut off car during lane change at mile marker 51; veered too close to cyclist on Maple Avenue. Minus 10 points."
The icing on the cake: After my near-miss, I got home that night and Mrs. Passenger Seat, a model of safe driving, told me she had gotten a speeding ticket that day in a locally famous speed trap.
Some friendly encouragement: One of my pet peeve advances in automotive technology has been lane-departure warning systems. Beep beep beep every time you drift a little bit on a country road. Nerve-wracking.
But, carmakers, this is an America where kids get trophies for showing up. Why not give drivers a friendly voice telling us how wonderful it is that we're staying in our lanes?
"Nice job, Scotty. You haven't drifted out of your lane for 0.7 miles. Way to go! There's a Starbucks up ahead on the left in 2.1 miles. If you keep this up, let's reward ourselves with a latte."
Driving blind: Politico senior editor David Cohen makes this observation -- "You'd think after all these years, someone could create something to guarantee there are no blind spots for the driver."
What a wonderful world that would be. I'm sure roof strength requirements are part of the challenge here; maybe it's time for a bulletproof bubble top a la "The Jetsons."
Readers, any good ideas? Share them.
Scott Sturgis, a freelance auto writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org