March may be the cruelest month of the year—not April. The climate has changed; February’s warmth brought the trees budding, crocuses blooming, and robins poking around on the front lawn. March may put an end to all that, slamming us with cold, maybe even snow. If not, we’re in for winds that will fan grass fires and turn the Red Cedars into fountains of flame.

March may be the cruelest month of the year—not April. The climate has changed; February’s warmth brought the trees budding, crocuses blooming, and robins poking around on the front lawn. March may put an end to all that, slamming us with cold, maybe even snow. If not, we’re in for winds that will fan grass fires and turn the Red Cedars into fountains of flame.

Then there’s the Road to the Final Four. As our hopes rise and fall, as we are forced to give up on our favorite team and pick another, we are tantalized by speed and slam dunks, reruns of which are spliced into ads for cars that can take mountain curves in a single bound, outrun airplanes, and even leap into the air. If the Super Bowl is about supersized television screens and swimming in beer, the Road to the Final Four is surely about getting ready to hit the road in a brand new car.

About this time, the dreaded auto issue of Consumer Reports arrives.

First, of course, we check the reliability ratings for the cars we own. Breathlessly, we note black balls and red balls—or this year, green balls and red balls, with little arrow heads pointing up or down.

Is my “climate system” the only one that went bad? Oh my, am I likely to have problems with the power equipment, the in-car electronics? Should I trade in this car that has served me so well on the basis of the red balls others have placed on my model? Do I own a ticking time bomb?

Why am I so anxious about these ratings? Most of the respondents to CR surveys probably live in the rust belt, regularly overheat their engines in traffic jams, and aim at potholes! Who are these drivers that red ball their cars? CR won’t tell us, hiding their undesirable locations and suspect driving habits behind seemingly objective charts.

Still, one is affected; one has seen the ads for the new, improved cars; one turns to the profiles of these cars, the best and worst lists in the front of the magazine. One dreams and schemes, thinks about looking around in the near future.

Maybe one picks up an issue of Motor Trend at this point to see the top-of-the-line sedans and sports cars, just to further the pain of cars out-of-reach.

Then there are the articles on what’s coming from the manufacturers, the concepts being developed.

Most of the articles on future cars these days speculate on self-driving features. Given the fact that many cars have adaptive cruise control and accident avoidance gear onboard, we are led to expect a self-driven, GPS-directed car to take us where we want to go, while we eat, drink, text, or play video games.

The same GPS that can’t differentiate between a direct route with fifty stop signs from a faster loop, will get us there. I want to believe in this, but still.

But will these self-driving cars have a soul? Will they still be personal for us? After all, we’ve grown up to assume cars are extensions of our personalities. Mess with my car and you mess with me. I have named my car and it’s family. Its oil is thicker than water.

We want a car that speaks to us and that we can speak to. And not just through a connection to our smart phone either.

In some ways, I suppose the dream teen car for my generation was Christine. A shiny red Plymouth Fury V8, with menacing fins, a nerd’s best friend. True, a bit homicidal on his behalf, but, best of all, a car that could repair itself, with the radio playing—ready to go on its next mission. I can’t remember the film exactly, but didn’t Christine go out seeking bad boys and girls on her own, driverless?

Maybe the self-driving cars of the future will be able to fetch for us, driving through sleet and snow to pick up friends at the airport while we stay safely at home.

Recently, I read about a development that promises cars with a soul, cars that will not simply be an extension of your personality, but somewhat like Christine—minus murderous intent—will sense your feelings, and react empathetically.

These cars will respond with more warmth than the iPhone Siri ever showed. Sensors will be lodged in the steering wheel, door handles, or the seat. A camera will analyze our facial expressions.

This from a CNN report: “…if the driver exhibits stress, the vehicle’s coordinated sensors could soften the light and music, or broaden the headlight beams to compensate for loss of vision.”

Ok, what then? Will the car try to uplift my sadness or calm my madness to a societally acceptable level? If it has some self-driving features, will it refuse to let me take over if I am primed for road rage? Will it forcibly take me to a police station if I commit a robbery?

Or, if it is car that does not intervene on behalf of societal norms, how will it reflect my emotional states?

Remember mood rings? How about a car that changes color and the intensity of color, depending on your mood? Watch out for that fiery red Ford! She’s sure enough going to speed through the stop sign! That slowpoke in front of me is obviously kinda blue. There goes a warm red Chevy with a couple in the mood for love.

While we’re at it, can we ask for a palette of images to project on the car?

Twinkling lights for Christmas, hearts for Valentine’s Day, waving red-white-and-blue along the sides for the Fourth of July? Bumper messages we can automatically alter when we change our minds?

Instead of “Baby on Board,” we might project a picture of our own cuter-than-the-Gerber-kid on the rear door. Proud “Honor Student” parents could post the latest grade report on the trunk.

How about a preset for “chameleon” if I want to make the vehicle blend with the environment? It might be ideal for hunters who would like to turn the beds of their semi-aquatic trucks into duck blinds.

If I buy a Mustang or they bring back the Cougar, can I project a charging horse or a leaping cat on the hood? Can I choose from several tree groups for the side of my Forester? Please include some outlaw portraits for my Nissan Rogue or Jeep Renegade. I’d like images that appear and disappear slowly for the Mirage.

I expect some models, such as the Optima, Legacy or Lexis ES, would have to change their names or suffer declining sales because of an image gap.

OK, maybe thinking silly, but is there a point here?

In the past two decades, surely you’ve noticed that concerns with gas mileage, wind tunnel testing, and economies of scale (whatever that means) have produced a lot of models that look remarkably the same, even from year to year. Sometimes only the grill, taillights, and a small icon clue you in.

To save us from the utopia of anonymous and impossibly safe, self-driving compartments on wheels, we may need these mood features for our own well-being.