An icon of a speed camera pops onto the display of what has to be the world's most helpful in-car navigator, signaling the police-enforced stretch of road ahead.
Beside the icon is another symbol, this time posting the road's speed limit. More solicitously yet, the GPS unit sounds a light chime every time our wheels spin too fast around one of these areas, which, it seems, is always. Ding-dong-ding-dong-ding. Tickets are pricey in this part of town. The driver lays off the gas.
I'm tooling around tree-lined Jeju Island, often regarded as Korea's version of Hawaii for its balmy climate and dominating volcanic mountain at its eye. The navigation unit outfitted into most rental cars here is part of a highly organized and tightly-integrated mapping system that, in addition to keeping you out of trouble from the strict traffic cops, uses business names (or telephone numbers!) to guide tourists anywhere from a traditional farming village to a bustling food stall in the center of a pedestrian-only marketplace.
The unit in our Hyundai seems to only "speak" Korean, though the warnings are clear enough to the droves of visitors from Japan, China, and further abroad.
Day turns to dusk as we zoom past the numerous speed traps dotting the roads between Jeju's ancient standing stones and famous volcanic crater. The nav blares a warning once again. As the palm trees whiz by, I start to wonder what the rental agency would say if we got a ticket, and in which world KT/Hertz would consider giving us a break in our rental price for better driving behavior that avoided the increasingly irritating warning jingle altogether.
Better yet, what if those insurance benefits translated to my policy back home? In other words, what if road-aware in-car technology rewarded conscientious drivers who never speeded and always used their turn signals, who never slammed the breaks or leaned on their horns? I'm not one for an automotive police state, but I would certainly be inspired to lighten my lead foot if there were potential price cuts to be gained.
The idea doesn't seem like such a long shot from what our current infrastructure would allow. Crowdsourced navigation app Waze included route-based gamification long before Google absorbed the app into its churning information empire. Surely turning safe driving into an (optional) game with real-life perks would be a relatively easy, and dare I say, fun, way to improve roadway compliance while also helping a driver out around expected speed traps.
The navigator ding-dong-dings. The car rolls on.