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Toyota Patents Winking, Laughing, Crying Car 484

theodp writes "If the patent system ain't broke, don't fix it: The NY Times/IHT reports that four inventors working for Toyota in Japan have won a patent for a car that they say can help drivers communicate better by glaring angrily at another car cutting through traffic, as well as appear to cry, laugh, wink or just look around." The article goes on to describe "...a car with an antenna that wags, an adjustable body height, headlights that vary in intensity and hood slits and ornamentation designed to look like eyebrows, eyelids and tears."
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Toyota Patents Winking, Laughing, Crying Car

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  • by IncarnadineConor ( 457458 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:15PM (#9804512)
    is what part of the car is going to represent the middle finger
    • Would the stick shift count?
    • The knee.

      Next question please.
      Yes, you in the shirt...
    • by tambo ( 310170 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:42PM (#9804834)
      I suspect the primary claim of this patent reads: "A method of substantially increasing the frequency of auto accidents by adding distraction to the road, comprising..."

      Seriously, what an awful idea. Yes, let's pay attention to the emotions of the cars around us. Because even after the advent of cellphones, food from drive-throughs, stereos, GPS devices, and in-car LCD screens - we're still paying WAY too much attention to our driving situation.

      - David Stein

      • by e2d2 ( 115622 )
        But let's be honest, how many people in this self-centered world really give a shit what other's around them think? I would wager about 1%.

        This is a complete waste of time. But hey, what else do they have to do? It's not like there is an energy crisis going on...

      • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @04:16PM (#9805221) Homepage
        I disagree. At least it'll mean you're paying attention to the vehicles on the road.

        Cars are already designed to try to clue you in to what the driver is thinking - for example, brake lights, turn signals, horns, etc. Communication of intent between drivers is critical while on the road. Now, some of this is more what the driver "feels" than what they are planning, but I doubt it would *hurt*. The more attention you pay to what's on the road ahead of you, the better.
        • by tambo ( 310170 )
          At least it'll mean you're paying attention to the vehicles on the road.

          But are you? Instead of paying attention to all of the cars, you're paying more attention to one particular car. And it's not guaranteed to be a car that's important to your driving situation - it could very well be a car on the opposite side of the road.

          One of the other posters wrote it best: as you look in your rear-view mirror at the guy behind you, whose car is making a frowny-face, you're likely to rear-end the guy ahead of yo

          • by Rei ( 128717 )
            Do you spend your entire time as you're walking smiling, frowning, crying, etc?

            Odds are, the answer is 'No'.

            People don't spend their time expressing emotions to strangers unless they have a reason for it, and when they do, there's generally a good reason for it, and it's generally either appreciated or causes a desired interaction. That's the nature of communication in crowds.

            This would, more than anything, encourage *good* driving. There have been many times where, when I've been in a big pack of cars
            • by tambo ( 310170 )
              Do you spend your entire time as you're walking smiling, frowning, crying, etc?

              Odds are, the answer is 'No'.

              True. But that's even worse: now a car expressing emotion is an unusual occurrence, one that prompts you to pay attention to it.

              Can you think of another visual event that might encourage people to be better drivers? How about a wreck by the side of the road? A small visual indicator of the consequences of bad driving might encourage people to be more careful.

              But what is the real impact of tha

        • by Coulson ( 146956 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @05:30PM (#9805969) Homepage
          We could also go a long way by expanding the capabilities of the existing communications channels.

          For instance, why not have brake lights shine brighter the harder you're braking? That would give people behind you an indication of how hard they need to brake, without waiting to judge your change in velocity.

          Or brake lights that shine forward?
          Or acceleration lights that shine green (brighter the faster you accelerate)?
          Or turn signals that tick louder the farther you've traveled with them on (to remind you to turn them off)?

          Lots of innovations in car UI just waiting to happen, but it's so fscking standardized that no one's going to make them. I'm glad to see Toyota's at least thinking about what it means to actually drive a car, rather than just trying to build the latest rendition of an old concept.

          P.S. I get really incensed by the ads that are running right now -- I forget whose -- where the company claims to have 're-invented the wheel', 'rethought the car from the ground up', and 'come up with something completely revolutionary'. Then they show you a picture and it's... a sedan. Same as every other car on the road. Whoop-de-fucking-do.
          • I'm with you (Score:4, Interesting)

            by bezuwork's friend ( 589226 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @09:12PM (#9807581)
            I like your ideas, have had similar ones (as I imagine many drivers have had) for decades.

            I always thought that there should be bar lights, red for breaking; blue, green, white, or whatever for acceleration. And have them keyed to a standard applicable to all makes - e.g. three lights of red would mean a certain standard amount of deceleration.

            The other thing I always wish for is that trucks and such have a screen on the back showing their view of what's in front of them. Then when you get behind an idiot who is going slow and has no one in front, you know you should/can pass. For those who think this would be dangerous for some reason, remember that most drivers do this already with cars in front, as you can see through them from back to front.

            Heh, heh. Maybe the screen could be incorporated into the Toyota idea - if you're pissed off at the person behind you, you could switch to a shot of your face and mouth "fuck off" rather than having the car mimic the emotion.

            One last thing that I always wanted were "excuse me" lights. You know, for when you're the dick who cut someone else off (for a good reason, of course!).

        • "Cars are already designed to try to clue you in to what the driver is thinking..." Yes, well, drivers have to actually be thinking for it to be of any use.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:50PM (#9804916)
      Screw that.

      I want rocket launchers and flame throwers.

      Let's have some real retribution for those who piss me off, none of this namby pamby crying shit.

      And don't dare mod this comment as "funny".

    • by cryptochrome ( 303529 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @04:10PM (#9805144) Journal
      ...Therefore I wouldn't expect to see the middle finger much, but I would expect to see all the standard manga/anime visual icons.
      There's a good list of them here [], along with all the appropriate emoticons, although they left out a bunch of other less common stuff (bloody nose for sexual overstimulation, snot bubble for sleeping, escaping spirit for half dead, completely white from shock, puking looks kind of like a waterfall), and certain mouth patterns (aggressive fangs).

      In particular, expect to see sweat drops, popping veins, and funny eyes. ^_^;
    • Is This a Hoax??? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by severoon ( 536737 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @07:34PM (#9806923) Journal

      Is this a hoax???

      The patent number referred to is 6,575,593, but a quick search for that patent number at the US Patent Office yields a patent entitled: IEEE 1394 or USB powered computer light [].

      Seriously, people. I think this might just be a hoax.


  • by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) * on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:16PM (#9804520) Homepage Journal
    ...would Herbie the Love Bug count as prior art?
  • Two Words: (Score:5, Funny)

    by XCorvis ( 517027 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:17PM (#9804527)
    Two Words:

    Moon Roof
  • by Gentoo Fan ( 643403 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:17PM (#9804532) Homepage
    If you spend a few extra split seconds looking in the mirror at another car's "expression" then you are spending less time looking ahead of you.
    • by lukewarmfusion ( 726141 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:21PM (#9804597) Homepage Journal
      Only if you take a picture of it with your camera phone.
    • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:21PM (#9804600) Homepage Journal
      "If you spend a few extra split seconds looking in the mirror at another car's "expression" then you are spending less time looking ahead of you."

      And looking in the rear view mirror at the driver behind you is going to take less time some how?
      • Actually, I never look at other drivers. I view other cars as just that, other cars, not really acknowledging the fact that there are other humans doing the piloting. I guess driver's ed worked well for me, as I don't experience (or express) road rage.

        I'm not a robot, not yet at least ;-) but vehicles to me are entities in and of themselves. So if the vehicle itself gives me an expression, I'd give it some attention (and thus have less attention left for the rest of the driving experience), but even if

    • Not to mention the extra time the driver of the emoticar is spending trying to get the right emotion to display...
    • not that anyone is gonna buy one of these monstrosities.. not that toyota would even build the things.
    • by LincolnQ ( 648660 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:51PM (#9804935)
      Doesn't this increase the danger?

      Well, possibly, but if someone is trying to communicate with you, it may be the best way anyway. Think about it. Would you rather they flash the lights, honk the horn or wave? You will spend more brain cycles trying to parse these messages. Generally, an interface that uses ingrained brain 'hardware' to communicate is usually better than teaching everyone that signal X means Y.

      You may remember that we had that article on Facetop []last week, where you can use your existing hand-eye coordination 'hardware' to drive the pointer. That sounds like really stellar UI. This is similar in that it would use humanlike social cues to communicate. (Then again... social cues? I must be new here.)

      The only problem I'm seeing is that the facial expressions that a car can make are probably nothing like actual social cues, and that they would not be similar enough to trigger expression recognition code in your brain. Who knows.
    • I disagree, this could actually reduce the time spent looking in the mirror. If you cut someone off, the guy in the car behind you is going to do everything he can to get your attention (flip you the bird, honk, scream, shoot at you). If this car is at all successful, after the first phase of 'wow, look at that!' comments from drivers, people will get used to it and disregard angry drivers at a glance, easily guaging their emotional state from the very visible front end of the car, rather than peering at th
    • by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @04:44PM (#9805553) Homepage Journal
      One might argue, that, as humans are hardwired to quickly asses human facial expressions, we might spend less time looking in the rear-view mirror if cars had them. I think it would be at least worth a scientific study.
  • by CmdrGoatse ( 800104 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:17PM (#9804534) Homepage
    2 tonne furbies on wheels
  • by Rob Carr ( 780861 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:18PM (#9804541) Homepage Journal
    ...before the first news article "Driver of Glaring Car Shot to Death"?
  • by sickmtbnutcase ( 608308 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:18PM (#9804542)
    I wonder what expression a riced-out version will show when mom's minivan beats it in a drag race...
  • Oh great (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dacarr ( 562277 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:19PM (#9804561) Homepage Journal
    Just what we need. All these hotrodders and riceboys that soup up their cars to bounce or sound like they go faster than they're going, and now we have the manufacturers participating in a slightly backhanded way.
  • So does this include a speech distorter so it sounds like the car is screaming obscenities at the rest of the idiots out there?

    I'd set mine to "Bender"
  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul ( 629286 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:20PM (#9804574) Journal
    Wait... No, thats totally (for lack of better word, no offense to anyone) Gay. Very Gay. When are you going to make them fly like you promised in the 50's? Thats the future I want. I want a flying car with laser cannons! And missles that come out of the tail pipe! With a racing stripe!
  • by khendron ( 225184 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:20PM (#9804575) Homepage
    Sounds like smilies for cars to me ;-)
  • by Nakito ( 702386 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:20PM (#9804579)
    I hope the inventors complied with their duty to submit a copy of "Roger Rabbit" to the patent office. Benny the Cab anticipates every technology described in the article.

  • by ibullard ( 312377 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:20PM (#9804584) I have to deal with being surrounded by crying cars on the way to work.

    Screw that.
  • Speed Buggy? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mdrechsler ( 711856 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:20PM (#9804588)
    Did anyone else think of Speed Buggy or am I the only dope that remembers that show? et/showid-5028/Speed_Buggy/ []
  • Incredible! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Pendersempai ( 625351 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:21PM (#9804595)
    Hehehehe... Japan is so funny. Anthropomorphic cars. Hehehe... Can we order them with Garfield stripes?
    • Yeah, but your top speed goes to shit and you have to stop to fill up the gas tank 6 times a day.

      And forget about swerving around any dogs in the road...
  • You know those Chevron cars? Those toy and clay model ones that they use in the commercials and you can buy at gas stations? Well, that's what I think is going to happen. I am going to be laughing my ass off and on during my entire commute if this thing was introduced heavily into the market. As such, it is important to provide safety controls for the drivers and passengers laughing their heads off and not concentrating on the road.

    I propose that along with the car that has the expressions, when they get i
  • by Otter ( 3800 )
    If the patent system ain't broke, don't fix it:

    Snideness noted, but what exactly is "broke" here?

    • Prior art? I'm not sure Herbie counts.
    • Obvious? Like a lot of inventions, it's obvious after someone else has come up with it.
    • Stupid? Probably, but then don't buy one.
    • Well if there's an objection to the awarding of this patent, it certainly isn't that it's obvious. I mean, I've now knows about the invention for at least 10-20 minutes and I *still* don't understand what it's good for.
  • Patent critique? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by k98sven ( 324383 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:23PM (#9804619) Journal
    The patent system may be broken, but I don't really see how this would be an indication of it.

    At least to me, this is not an obvious idea.

    Unless of course, you have a Japanese sense of imagination. I'd trust the people who invented Domo-kun [] , Vending machines for 'used' underwear [] and heated, self-deodorizing toilets [] to come up with just about anything.

    • Perhaps - but certainly not new.

      Herbie the Love Bug []

      and, of course, his cartoon brother,

      speed buggy []
  • can star in a "Girls Gone Wild" video, flashing tits and drunk on jello shots.
  • by meganthom ( 259885 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:24PM (#9804634)
    Forget anger and letting people merge in front of you... Here's what I want my car to be able to express:

    1) Oops!
    2) New to area.
    3) I'm completely lost.
    4) Medical emergency.
    5) Learner

    How many times are we angry with people who just happen to be dealing with one of the above and who we would easily forgive if we knew as much?
  • Road Rage (Score:2, Insightful)

    by guitaristx ( 791223 )
    Shouldn't the idea be to decrease road rage? It's a great novelty idea, but nothing more. As someone already mentioned, it distracts drivers from watching the road. That's partly the reason why there are many restrictions (at least, in the US) about blinking lights, moving parts, etc., on vehicles. Personally, I think the little spinny-things on the rims are annoying enough, and I'm not looking forward to the car giving me the same head-tilted-back, lower-lip-stuck-out, looking-out-from-under-a-goofy-lo
  • Won't sell enough to mass-produce, anyway. Too many people revel in the emotional anonymity of riding in a metal box. If this really helped people communicate while driving, even in this limited second-hand way, they might have to acknowledge that they're sharing the road with other people, and they might be less inclined to drive so obliviously and/or obnoxiously to others. The market for that is way too small.
  • by HaloZero ( 610207 ) <> on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:28PM (#9804680) Homepage
    That's great, really, but what I'd rather like/need is a way to communicate with those people behind me, who like to tailgate.

    Something like, 'You do not have appropriate stopping distance. Back off, or I'll test my theory by way of brakes.'
    • (If applicable) flip your rear window washer over so it sprays upward and fill it with oil.
      Not saying I've done it. Just an idea.

    • I'd say that your brake lights are a good communication tool.

      You can make a bumper sticker that says, "I brake for tailgaters."
    • No. Do not test your theory by way of brakes. Even if they hit you, you still have to go through the hassle of exchanging information, talking with insurance, etc. That's annoying.

      Do what I do.

      Keep a realistic looking stuffed toy dog (even a cat does the trick) in your car -- it doesn't need to be big or anything -- just realistic looking. Then, when someone is tailgating you, calmly roll down your window and release Fido (make sure your hand doesn't stick out too far -- ruins the realism).

      Trust me..
    • Tailgaters (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @04:24PM (#9805335)
      I usually handle tailgaters by slowing down to about half the speed limit, and continuing to slow down until they either get the point and back off, or get fed up and blow past me.

      Seriously, the danger from tailgating is that they might rear-end you (duh). If you slowly reduce your speed this greatly reduces the risk of a high-speed read end collision while simultaneously giving them a great incentive to stop tailgating. They're doing it because they think it'll get them to their destination faster. I simply make it clear to them that they'll NEVER get there if they insist on tailgating me.

      In my experience, most people get the hint and back off.

  • I have always thought that a cheap sort of CB radio available in every car would be very useful to increasing driver courtesy.

    Maybe the radio receivers could tell which direction a transmission was coming from, and provide cues to people in the car (by positioning the voice across the speakers, or something).

    Or maybe that wouldn't be necessary, in Counter-Strike you don't necessarily know the location of your teammates, but the voice chat helps immensely.

    I think one of the problems with driving, that cau
    • Amen, I've always thought the same thing. How much road rage could've been averted if someone had apologised? How often have people wanted to say "go ahead"?

      Conversely, how often have you wanted to pick up the blonde in the next car. Or warn oncoming traffic that you just passed a speed trap. Or call the guy puttering along in the fast lane a retarded road-turd.

      Either way, this is long overdue. CB has numerous usability issues that come from its nature as a radio transmission. Maybe that could be fi
    • But, if you pulled up slightly after him, and he said "oh, you go right through, I need to help my wife find the pen in the glove compartment", everything is much smoother.

      Driving is serious business.

      Driving is not a time to help someone find a pen. It is time to follow the rules of the road. Don't mess with the rules, just follow them.

      If you have other business to deal with, take care of it some other time.

      A Decent Driver
    • The drawback is that you'll get the internet/chat room phenomenon. Anonymous communication leads to insults ('u r g4y'), flame wars, etc. Some people would hopefully use it well, but (as with CB radio), it risks turning into a pissing contest.

      That said, when you commute you're traveling as part of a community of drivers. I think that having the ability to convey a limited set of phrases ('go ahead', 'thank you', 'sorry/my bad') would be beneficial. Pre-programmed voice macros would solve the problem: g
  • by blueZhift ( 652272 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:28PM (#9804683) Homepage Journal
    This certainly sounds like it could be useful, as generally more communication is a good thing. But from my own observations, I'm not entirely sure that the other driver knowing what I'm thinking/feeling is a good thing. I've had plenty of thoughts about the asinine driving of other people that probably would have resulted in fights rather than better understanding! I, of course, drive perfectly!

  • and i'm installing hydros on it yea!
  • in the 70's the cops would come to school and bring a tricked out VW bug. it had modified headlight eyes that winked and blinked and turned on command.
    it had a modified hood mouth that opened and closed to "talk"
    and the fenders would move too I think.
    also had a hat :)

  • bAH! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Piranhaa ( 672441 )
    I can see it now... "Driver slipped off icy road when tears (from car) landed on ice"
  • Yeah, whatever.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hot_Karls_bad_cavern ( 759797 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:33PM (#9804726) Journal
    how about increasing fuel efficiency? (yes, even more.

    or making them safer (fundementally instead of bigger and heavier)

    or better communication integration for the ever-pressed-to-the-ear cell phones

    or better collision avoidance systems

    or making headlights that can be "ub3r" that don't blind everyone on the road

    Yeah, making sure the car has emotions and becomes more distracting is a stellar idea. Yesh.
    • by CrankyFool ( 680025 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:58PM (#9805004)
      > how about increasing fuel efficiency? (yes, even more or making them safer (fundementally instead of bigger and heavier)

      These are the Japanese we're talking about here, not the American auto industry. Their cars are the most gas-efficient mass-produced cars you can get in the US. They're making some larger SUVs, but only because that's what Americans want to buy. You can still buy a high-efficiency Civic.

      >or better communication integration for the ever-pressed-to-the-ear cell phones

      Have you seen the Acura's Bluetooth integration?

      >or better collision avoidance systems

      So we can have every slashdotter bitch about how that takes away from their control and they can't trust an automated system to do their avoidance for them?

      >or making headlights that can be "ub3r" that don't blind everyone on the road

      Yeah, what's up with that? We want lights that put out tons of visible light and throw it out far, but that won't blind anyone who looks at them. Is that so hard?

  • Snoop Dogg's cars have had this ability for years.
  • ...based on a routine I heard from a stand-up comic once:

    "Every car should be required to have a cell phone, and the license plate is the phone number".

    I can just imagine what kind of chaos that would cause...

  • Closely related (Score:5, Insightful)

    by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:35PM (#9804763) Journal
    For a while now I've been meaning to build an LED display for the back of my car so I can flash messages like GET OUT FROM UP MY ASS and plain old FUCK YOU! to whoever's tailgating me.
    • by Cyno01 ( 573917 )
      Mount it backwards in the front... "TURN YOUR GODDAMN BLINKER OFF!!!"

      lamenessfilter, dont use caps, blah blah blah
  • by dAzED1 ( 33635 )
    I posed a question when I submitted this story yesterday: they claim that the horn only sends one message, and doesn't allow you to thank someone who lets you cut in. How does a smile on the front of your car tell someone behind you thanks? I always found that a simple wave accomplished this quite well, myself.
  • It's about time a patent was issued for something *valid* for a change.

    If this were compared to most software patents, it would be a patent for the concept of using an automatic transmission gear-shifter, decades after nearly every car has an automatic transmission.
  • An "awake" car would have "open shutters, headlights fringed with complementary 'eyebrows,' an erect antenna and brighter glass and exterior panels."

    So it has an erect antenna and it's batting eyebrows uh? I'm sure this car has great pimping potential...
  • Sure i'd get a car that showed emotion, but i'm a sucker for over-priced, non-essential, almost-useless-gadgets....BUT by the description I immediately thought of the Chevron with Techron commercials. First I thought - "hay if my car looked/acted like that it'd be kinda cool" but then I thought "Does this count as Prior Art? Could Chevron sue Toyota or some such lame as scenario?"
  • "KITT! Why the hell are there suddenly 50 pimped-out lowriders chasing us and firing Uzis?"

    "I'm sorry, Michael - I honestly thought it would make them happy if I winked at them!"

  • A car that acts like a pet? Great, now I'll have to carry around a bunch of jumbo sized trash bags and a glove to pick up my car's "messes".
  • And make their larger SUVs look like male genitalia?

    Or is Chevy already trying to do that with the Corvette?
  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:56PM (#9804987) Homepage

  • by 10101001011 ( 744876 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @03:58PM (#9805008) Homepage
    I can't wait for the possible dating situations...

    Ford F-250 winks at the cute little Toyota Echo.

    "Hey good lookin', what's a car like you doin' on a highway like this?"

    Will that be premium or supreme?

    Can I change your oil?

    And my personal favorite:
    Wanna flash me?

    Thank you, I'll be here all night. Don't forget to tip your waitress and try the steak...
  • is the middle finger. As a New Jerseyian (born and raised), I have a sub-two second roll down window/extend arm/raise middle finger time. It's second nature in situations like "soccer mom in minivan on my right doesn't even look out her left window and tries to change lanes into my car." My response then was an instictive, sub-second horn/brake/swerve/flip-bird.

    This system is sufficient for any and all inter-driver communication needs I could ever imagine.
  • Prior art (Score:4, Funny)

    by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @04:23PM (#9805316)
    My old 1974 Fiat X-1/9. Bump the headlight switch just right, and the left headlight pod would go op, down, and back up again. Winking, as it were.
  • by t_allardyce ( 48447 ) on Monday July 26, 2004 @04:43PM (#9805544) Journal
    As a car is stuck at the lights the eyes will slowly follow some girl crossing the road, and then the hood will pop open..
  • Excellent idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Frantactical Fruke ( 226841 ) <renekita@dl c . fi> on Monday July 26, 2004 @04:44PM (#9805552) Homepage
    Back in the 60s, linguists postulated that your vocabulary influences your character, claiming even that bilingual people act differently depending on the language they're speaking.

    That would explain why drivers start acting like enraged apes as soon as they enter their cars: They are limited to honking, blinking, acceleration and hand signals.

    Kreegah, bundolo!

"Wish not to seem, but to be, the best." -- Aeschylus