Now I want to jailbreak my car...

My Camry Hybrid is for the most part a sedan that happens to be a hybrid, not a Lifestyle Statement that apologizes for being a car. With just under 2,000 miles on it now, it’s averaging 37.5 miles/gallon, and delivering a quiet, comfortable ride. Operationally, it’s just a car, and the only “green” button you can press is one that’s hidden from casual view, that merely reduces the effectiveness of the heating and air-conditioning. I will never press this button.

On the big screen, you can pull up the animated picture of where power is coming from and going to, as well as a bar chart of the current trip’s average mileage, but this is more to amuse the front-seat passenger, since you shouldn’t be looking at the silly thing while driving.

For the driver, there’s an analog gauge with a lightly-damped instantaneous MPG needle, and a small LCD that can show estimated range, long-term average MPG, battery charging/powering animation, and a little “eco drive level” score chart for the current trip (as well as exterior temperature and odometer). When your score changes significantly during the trip, it will briefly switch to that screen before returning to your chosen setting, but otherwise it stays out of your way.

Yesterday I noticed something else it does with that screen. When I arrived at the office and put the car into the park, it switched to the score chart and flashed “Excellent!” at me, praising me for my perfectly ordinary highway driving. I guess they needed to do something to replace the Prius’ smug filter.

The effect on me was perhaps the opposite of what was intended, though. It made me want to drive badly, just to see if the car would scold me, or simply offer less exuberant praise. Is it a stern taskmaster, or a feel-good peer-group-promotion union teacher?

And I found myself wishing that bland statements like “Excellent” were replaced with audio prompts like the ones in Unreal Tournament: “Rampage!”, “Double Kill!”, “Multi Kill!”, “Unstoppable!”.

If you’re going to make a game out of optimizing your mileage, it should at least be a fun game…