As gaga as a lot of people are for urban planning and easing traffic congestion on our nation’s highways, I’m pretty sure most of those so affected are less pleased to usher in another of Big Brother’s snooping machines. Yet here we are, in 2014, with Xerox out selling our nation’s highway administrators on what you might call a “Carpool Nanny.”

Yes, somewhere along the way, The Document Imaging Company has become the Traffic Violation Documenting Company. A few years ago, Xerox announced plans to put cameras on school buses. Now, they’re excited to get cameras on highways to monitor the carpooling lane:

Unlike competing solutions, the Vehicle Passenger Detection System identifies the number of occupants in a vehicle with better than 95 percent accuracy at speeds ranging from stop-and-go to 100 mph.

Using patented video analytics and geometric algorithms the roadside detection unit can distinguish between empty and occupied seats. When a violation is detected, the information can be reported to the relevant enforcement agency in real time so an officer can visually confirm the information and potentially issue a citation.

Generous of them to include an actual officer of the law. Or a fig leaf, because who thinks carpool tickets wouldn’t become as ubiquitously automated as red light tickets?

Either way, the “patented video analytics and geometric algorithms” will no doubt come in handy when law enforcement needs to identify an individual in the car, somewhere down the line. The Xerox carpool camera makes snooping inside your vehicle commonplace and soon, a hum-drum old story. A camera is a camera.

Whether you’re in the market for a new vehicle, like to ogle classic cars from years past, or be near the newest and most luxurious automobiles you know you’ll never be able to afford, it is fairly safe to say car shows have something enjoyable for everyone.  This past weekend marked 104 years since Rochester’s first International Auto Show in 1908. Run by the Rochester Auto Dealers Association (RADA), the Rochester International Auto Show has been a yearly success, missing only a few years in its 104 year span due to the Great Depression and World War II.

Since it’s very early beginnings, the mission of the Rochester International Auto Show has remained the same: to showcase the newest up and coming vehicles to the Rochester market.  Whether it was intentional or not, the unspoken theme for this year’s show was undoubtedly the eco-friendly vehicle.  We’ve all heard of the Volt by now and various hybrid vehicles have made appearances over the years, but if you think this is a fleeting trend with only a few varieties, it’s time you thought again!

The most common eco-friendly cars on the road today are the hybrids. The term hybrid refers to any vehicle that uses both gas and electric propulsion. Currently, hybrids are the most affordable eco-friendly vehicles on the market because they still use gasoline approximately half of the time they are in use. However, Buick took the opportunity to show off their 2012 Regal eAssist at this year’s show, which is more of a light hybrid if you will.  When the car is in motion, it is running off gas; if it is idling, it immediately switches to electric until the gas pedal is pressed again. The torque from the electric motor of the eAssist gives the Regal noticeable pep as well as well as a 36mpg rating, which is nothing to sneeze at. Although hybrid vehicles are much more environmentally friendly than straight gasoline run automobiles, they do still produce the hazardous emissions we’re trying to steer away from.

The other notable category of eco-friendly vehicles is the all-electric vehicle, like the Volt. These vehicles are powered solely by batteries which are typically powered by hydrogen. All electric automobiles are hands down the most environmentally friendly vehicles available as they produce virtually zero pollutants; however, they are much less affordable than regular vehicles with an average MSRP of more than $40,000. In the long run, the money saved on gasoline may even out, but the original pay out for an electric vehicle is painful and enough to keep the majority of consumers on the path of regular gasoline run cars.

Never fear, though. Remember when things like iPhones, external hard drives, and jump drives were first introduced? How much did you pay for a few megabytes? A gig? Are you rolling in dough? It seems laughable now, but although prices of the latest technologies always seem unattainable, it never takes long for them to fall to the consumer level, and eco-friendly cars will be no exception. Chevrolet proudly gave a sneak preview of their classic Malibu model’s 2013 Eco hybrid edition which will arrive in dealership showrooms this summer, as well as delivered information on the upcoming Spark, which will be available as a more affordable all-electric vehicle targeted at city drivers within the next year.

As car manufacturers continue to move closer to affordable electric motors and farther away from gasoline power, it doesn’t seem terribly unlikely that by the next generation, turning an ignition key will be on its way to ancient history (which, for the record, is an absolute mindspin – from someone who’s driven a Volt, pressing a button and hearing nothing when you turn the car on is crazy. I thought I broke the thing). Even if global warming and ozone levels somehow turn out to be false, the worst case scenario we’ll be faced with is cleaner air and better car mileage for lesser money.  Personally, I can live with that.

With luck, perhaps they’ve finally put the nail in the coffin of those goddamned SUVs once and for all:

Rising Gas Prices Finally Kill The Once-Mighty SUV | Autopia from Wired.com

Need more proof the SUV is a goner? Ford’s venerable F150 pickup ended its 17-year-run as the best-selling vehicle in America last month, dethroned by the Honda Civic and three other Japanese sedans. General Motors is looking to unload Hummer, the epitome of gas-guzzling excess, after sales fell 60 percent in May. The number of Civics sold in one month exceed the number of Hummers GM expects to sell all year.

Now, the question is: does this mean an increase in production of more fuel-efficient cars? My continuing chagrin with my car manufacturer of choice, Saturn, has been that they only make two hybrids: a hybrid SUV and a luxury car. I appreciate the effort, but spending the extra dough for a hybrid only to get 35MPG is hardly worth the trouble. I’m getting about that now.

So I’m beginning to look elsewhere, with my term on my current vehicle edging ever closer to completion. And by “elsewhere,” I mean something other than American cars. The trouble is that, while I’m hardly one to be defined by my car, there’s a certain lack of – oh, let’s just call it “testicular fortitude” – in the available options. The Prius has gotten better looking as it goes on, but a $25k price tag makes it hard to take. Not impossible, though. The new India-produced TaTa (to be marketed as the “Mini-Cat,” its English translation, in the States) looks like it might be OK, but what the hell is up with the 1Lakh? And the “Smart Car?” It’s only smart if your working towards a life of celibacy. And while I lived in the city, I considered buying a Vespa scooter until I realized I’d look like an English schoolmarm with a hickory switch up her keister.

As a person whose favourite car of all time was the Dodge Shadow, I hardly require a “penis-mobile” of any variety. But come on! These things just make you look stupid driving around in/on them. The manufacturers are doing the environment and the world economy a great service by even producing these vehicles, but they’d be doing an even greater service if they made the vehicles just a little bit more approachable for the average American.

But then, vehicles that appeal to an American sensibility would be more likely if American producers would produce the vehicles, wouldn’t they?