The Time I Ran Out of Gas

Before Christmas, I ran out of gas for the first time.

All things considered, I was very lucky. It was just me in the car, and the engine died in a covered parking structure, in a remote corner with few cars. Plus, it was the middle of the day, during the week before Christmas, so not a lot of people were out and about anyway.

Could have been a lot worse.

The reason why I ran out of gas is more germane, and as a result of my mishap, I found another interesting experience.

I’ll start with the why. If you read here, you’ll know I’ve been researching the quantified self, which I understand roughly as the collection of data related to me and the comparison of these data sets to identify efficiencies.

As an example, I tracked fitness data with a variety of wearables for most of last year.

About a year ago, Ben posted his impressions of Automatic, a device you plug into your car’s OBD-II diagnostics port that will quantify and analyze your driving data and track your car’s overall health, including its fuel consumption and range.

I have since added Automatic my car as another data set for my #QS research. I’ve found the data very useful, especially with respect to real cost of driving.

Since Automatic knows when you fill the tank and can determine the price you paid, it can provide a very exact cost for each trip you make. This adds a new dimension to mundane tasks.

Suddenly, running out for a single item has a real cost, driving farther for a sale can be accurately evaluated, splitting the cost of a trip can be exact, etc.

One feature I appreciate is the range. From the wayback archives, in 2010, I discussed the experience and design challenges of a gas gauge. My Jeep warns of low fuel very early and won’t report the range once the low fuel indicator has been tripped.

However, Automatic always reports an estimated range, which I really like.

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Maybe too much, given this is how I ran out of gas. The low fuel indicator had been on for a day, but I felt confident I could get to a gas station with plenty of time, based on the estimated range reported by Automatic.

Armed with my false confidence, I stopped to eat on the way to the gas station, and then promptly ran out of gas.

To be clear, this was my fault, not Automatic’s.

In my 2010 musings on the gas gauge, I said:

It does seem to be nigh impossible to drive a car completely out of gas, which seems to be a good thing, until you realize that people account for their experiences with the gauges when driving on E, stretching them to the dry point.

Yeah, I’m an idiot, but I did discover an unforeseen negative, over reliance on data. I knew it was there, like in every other data vs. experience point-counter point. I know better than to rely on data, but I still failed.

Something I’ll need to consider more deeply as my #QS investigation continues.

Now for the interesting experience I found.

After calling roadside assistance for some gas, my insurance company texted me a link to monitor “the progress of my roadside event.” Interesting copy-writing.

That link took me an experience you might recognize.

Screenshot_2015-12-18-10-05-21

Looks like Uber, doesn’t it? Because it’s a web page, the tow trunk icon wasn’t animated like the Uber cars are, but overall, it’s the same, real-time experience.

I like the use here because it gives a tangible sense that help is on the way, nicely done.

So, that’s my story. I hope to avoid repeating this in the future, both the running-out-of-gas and the over-reliance on data.

Find the comments and share your thoughts.

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

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