Zoom-Shroom in the Mazda 5

Yale economist Dean Karlan reports on a nudge gone bad in the Mazda 5. Its choice architecture turned out to have serious consequences during a recent trip out west. Beware the car’s dashboard.

(The Mazda 5) has sensors to know whether it is dark out, to turn the lights on. But here is the kicker: it only turns the dashboard lights on, not the headlights! So my subconscious thought the headlights were on, and I didn’t turn them on. Until a cop pulled me over. And then said we fit his “profile”: one way rental from Phoenix to Tucson, 14k miles on the rental, licenses from the east, and two of us from different places which he says is an indication that we don’t know each other (I was with JZinman, and he didn’t seem to get it when I told him that if he doubts we know each other, he can google me and get the suggestion “karlan and zinman”). We didn’t even tell him we were daytripping to Nogales, Mexico, that clearly would have been the kicker. We just told him Tucson. Next step? K-9 unit arrives after 20 minutes (all this at 2 a.m.).

Here is the funny part: the dog found something! Clearly our rental car was recently used for a drug run. The dog was going nuts. But only residue, they never found anything. Took an hour for the cops to let us go. But then when we pulled out, I did remember to turn my headlights on despite the dashboard lights already being on.


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