Talking to Machines

When you need to communicate to another human being it’s pretty straight forward.

Talking to Machines

Trying to communicate with a machine is more difficult.

Talking to Machines

I know there’s a human being behind the machine. But can’t always see them and their vocabulary is pretty limited. So when I get honked at I’m left to guess what they’re trying to express.

Talking to Machines

While I know most people are decent, I’m too afraid to turn around and engage just in case the last driver is the one behind the wheel.

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41 Comments on "Talking to Machines"

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Noah Weiss

I can definitely relate to this. Normally, I interpret a honk as an aggressive move, but there are times when a friend or friendly person will honk at me to get my attention.

Unfortunately, because I am easily startled, honking is a bad way to try to get my attention while riding.

Ross Lindgren

To paraphrase Nick Nolte in the Amazon Fire TV commercial, “It’s frustrating when machines don’t listen.”

Vocu Dwabe

“It’s frustrating when machines don’t listen.”

Indeed it is: as so memorably captured by this heart-rending sequence from the 1976 BBC TV comdey “Fawlty Towers”. As a depiction of human/machine non-interaction it remains definitive.


Whether or not the driver intends it, I usually interpret a honk as a giant FU. Probably because that’s the intention often enough and I’m bracing myself for a worst-case scenario.

Vocus Dwabe
We have a convention in Britain that a bicycle is a person perched on top of a flimsy metal frame, doing something that really shouldn’t be allowed in any properly ordered society, and that a motor vehicle is a kind of autonomous unit with a mind and volition of its own, just doing what motor vehicles naturally do, and if you get in it’s way any harm that befalls you is your own bloody silly fault. The approved style for local-newspaper headlines – it hardly ever makes the national press – is “Cyclist Killed by Car”, not “Cyclist Killed by… Read more »
Ethan Fleming
I to all understand where you are company from. In Massachusetts there is a common there in accidents where dirvers don’t want to Take responsibility for their actions. Not all, but a lot of drivers, have a delusional Idea in their head that the Road is for cars and cars only. Like you said, headlines say that a car Caused an Accident a lot and almost Never say a bad Driver Caused it. People don’t like Taking responsibility for their actions. Bike face if right by saying look of communication is a big part of it but the same can… Read more »
Les Murray

Thanks for that British perspective. I feel that drivers would never dream of coming close to a slow moving tractor where they could do real damage to their vehicle but some of them don’t feel the same about coming close to a cyclist which just seems cowardly to me. I can’t wait for the three foot law to take effect everywhere.

Jon Webb

No, no one is ever killed by anyone in a motor vehicle here in the US. It is always an accident, like, say, when you drop something. “Oops! Accident!” is all you have to say to be forgiven. It’s not anybody’s fault, it just happens every so often. Everybody understands that it could happen to anyone, so there’s no sense in getting upset about it.

“While I know most people are decent, I’m too afraid to turn around and engage just in case the last driver is the one behind the wheel.” I feel the same way! I was waiting at a red light at Davis Sq at around 10am, and a car suddenly pulled up next to me, so close that its bumper almost bumped my leg! I wanted to look back and say something but remembered that I am a petite woman and would probably come out second in any physical altercation, so I moved my bike up ahead instead to put some… Read more »
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