Sunday musings: Penny wise and pound foolish, biometric cars, love is in the air


This Sunday, there is a lot to think about. When is being cheap really costing you money when you travel? What do you think about cars that monitor your pulse, temperature, glucose levels and more? And, finally, are you game for love at first flight — a look at an air travel matchmaker.

Foolish frugal travelers
At some point cheap travelers need to assess the costs associated with savings. That’s when a knowledgeable traveler can spend more but also get more. Sometimes cheaper isn’t always cheaper when all other factors are factored.

If you can get to a unique event by taking a cab rather than slogging into town from the airport on the bus, it is a great deal. Remember, you already spent hundreds of dollars on your flight. If you get a good night’s sleep for a couple of extra bucks, that sure beats restless sleep even with the savings.

Some higher airfares are worth it once frequent flier miles are considered or elite status that scores you a better seat. And sometimes checking a bag allows you to bring valuable items that would cost far more than the checked luggage fee.

This article takes a look at being penny wise and pound foolish when traveling.

I see it all the time. People become so obsessed with saving that it becomes the focal point of the trip, the primary topic of conversation and even the subject of competitive one-upmanship. Oh, you drove a hard bargain at the hostel and paid $11 instead of $12? Well, I crashed on the floor of a church for free — unless of course you count the cost of aspirin for the backache and coffee for the lack of actual sleep. (Accounts of these grand victories, by the way, all too often take place over drinks that wipe out any savings many times over.)

Pound Foolish Travelers often make poor airline ticketing decisions. Which airport will you depart from? How many hours of layover are acceptable? What about very late-night or early-morning flights? One thing is for sure: booking the absolute cheapest ticket you can find is far too simplistic a strategy.

What if your car kept you stress-free and healthy? Some may in the future.
The age of the biometric car is upon us. I know that many of us have heard about cars that dim their lights automatically, adjust the rear-view mirrors and even park themselves. But now automobiles can warn you when you may be getting sleepy and soon will monitor your pulse, glucose, heart rate and more. Some doctors say, “I want the patients’ cars to call them when they need blood-pressure medication.”

This all sounds good and fascinating, but it raises new questions about privacy and who owns your personal data. The issue about who owns computer-collected mechanical data was on the ballot in Massachusetts this past election. The initiative passed and car companies and others who collect data will soon have to share it with the car owner.

But whether the company that collects the data can use it as well as the automobile owner will need to be hashed out in courts or the legislature.

A number of big car manufacturers are accelerating research into equipping vehicles with so-called biometric sensors that would keep tabs on a driver’s vital health signs, including pulse, breathing and “skin conductance,” aka sweaty palms. When that information is fed into the computers that manage a car’s safety systems, it could enable a vehicle to better react to whatever challenges the road and traffic dish out.

The move comes amid major advances in mobile medical-monitoring technology, as well as growing concerns about meeting the needs of an aging and increasingly distracted population of motorists.

It also reflects another step in the industry’s broader move toward self-driving cars, a brave new world in which computers could all but eliminate the potential for driver error — whether it’s due to a distracting phone call or a sudden drop in blood sugar.

Do we need a matchmaker site to get air travelers together?
I used to use to get dates. It was easy, didn’t require hanging out in bars and seemed efficient. I have to admit, I rarely had a bad experience. But now, a would-be matchmaker is targeting airplane travelers.

One of my rules when meeting others for the first time was to always have a plan of escape. Being stuck in adjacent seats in a plane flying at 40-something-thousand miles over Kansas, is a bit too confining for my druthers. What are your thoughts?

A web entrepreneur by trade, [Steve] Pasternack resolved to create — a dating website that enables travelers to connect at the departure gate.

Since launching in May 2011, the platform has attracted roughly 20,000 members worldwide, he claims.

The concept works by prompting users to enter their personal interests, flight details and departure airport before matching them up with individuals with similar interests and travel arrangements.

So far, people in the United States, Mexico and Germany have shown the most interest, although Pasternack says members have joined from all over the world.