During the big all-analogue, all-human version of Mattel Football that was played yesterday to a mixed crowd of people and cardboard cutouts of people, a number of automakers paid lots of money to make small, insipid movies that they hoped would set off a chain of events that would end with you buying a car. Cadillac’s entry was for their upcoming Lyriq electric SUV, and featured the son of one of modern culture’s most famous artificial humans with cutlery for hands. It also contributed to the potentially dangerous misinformation surrounding current Level 2 driver-assist systems.
In case you didn’t get a chance to watch Cadillac’s ad, here you go. I guess I can just invoice GM for showing this here? I’ll look into that:
Now, even before we get to the automotive issues here, if you’re remotely familiar with Tim Burton’s 1990 movie Edward Scissorhands, you’ll note that there’s a lot here that doesn’t make sense.
The main character there, the one who looks pretty much exactly like the titular (snicker) Edward from the original movie, is, in fact, Edgar Scissorhands, implied to be the son of the original Edward, the blade-handed invented man who took hair and makeup advice from Bob Smith of the Cure.
The mum is similarly implied to be Winona Ryder’s uncharacteristically-blonde character from the original, Kim, which is where things get confusing, as at the end of the original movie, Kim had helped to fake Edward’s death and had seemingly gone on to live a full life nearby but without any real contact with him.
Look, it’s all here in the end of the movie:
So, someone here is lying. Now, if we say, ok, what the hell, it’s just a commercial, so let’s say Kim and Edward did get together and have a son, that too raises all kinds of questions.
Remember, Edward was built by an inventor as a sort of android, an inventor that made some remarkably bad decisions regarding what sort of temporary mechanical hands would prove most useful until an actual human-like pair was completed:
Those complicated, dangerous, multi-bladed hands proved to be sort of a terrible choice, but the inventor was clearly highly skilled: not only was Edward a high-functioning entity with near-human emotions and cognitive abilities but, if this Cadillac commercial is to be believed, was also in possession of a fully functioning human reproductive system? With sperm that somehow carried the DNA information for mechanical scissor-hands?
And, if that’s true, I sure as hell hope Kim Scissorhands had a cesarian. Actually, based on the kid’s anatomy, maybe that would have been the only possible outcome, possibly initiated by the child? There are all kinds of troubling issues here.
But, again, it’s just a commercial. Fine. We see in the ad that Edgar, while clearly skilled with his scissor hands, has a lot of trouble operating many basic human tools and equipment: pull cords on buses, catching footballs, pushing buttons, fences, etc.
Now, we do see him nervously driving the Lyriq. He does seem to have some kind of human-ish hands under all those blades, though when it comes to a task where we would choose a finger, pushing a button, he does select a large blade to do the job:
At this point, the SuperCruise system takes over, and, because it uses a camera to track the driver’s eyes to confirm adequate attention is being paid to the road, which is different than systems like Tesla’s Autopilot, which use a torque sensor in the steering wheel to confirm a hand is on the wheel.
Now, the message being sent here is pretty clear, and it’s the part I have a problem with: GM is saying that, hey, even if you have massive aggregations of knives for hands that make normal driving nearly impossible, it’s ok because SuperCruise means you don’t even need to touch the wheel!
The problem here is that, like all Level 2 driver-assist systems, even if you don’t need to touch the steering wheel or car controls while it’s working, it can still stop working and demand the driver take over with zero warning, and if this were to happen to Edgar there at highway speeds, I’m going to guess at best it would end up with some clanking and fumbling, and at worst with geysers of hot blood spraying from everyone in the front seat and likely some scratched LCDs and torn alacantara.
Also, did you see the door handles on the Lyriq? There’s no way Edgar is opening those. And if he tries, that paint job is boned.
This commercial just feeds into the myth, the same myth that Tesla has been feeding with terms like “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving” that Level 2 driver-assist systems are autonomous, self-driving systems. They’re not.
As we’ve said before, Level 2 systems are inherently flawed not for technological reasons, but for human-brain reasons: people are just not good at these sorts of “vigilance tasks” and anything that requires people to take over with no notice or warning has deep-seated problems.
This commercial is cute enough and would be ideal for a Level 3 or higher system that has some sort of failover/elegant handoff system in place, but it doesn’t.
Cadillac hasn’t solved that problem yet, and neither has Tesla. While Cadillac’s eye-watching camera system may be harder to fool than Tesla’s, if you’ve got massive shears all over your hands, you’re still going to potentially have as much trouble controlling a car, though thanks to SuperCruise, you may find yourself having trouble at much higher speeds and much further from where you started, so that’s something.
Knife hands or not, commercials like these are all leading the non-car-geek public to believe that autonomy is further along than it is, and that’s a recipe for trouble.
Also, do the Scissorhands men have skin under the leather? Or is that the skin?