There is a great deal of talk these days about the automation of the driving experience. Much of this technology is borne of the ever increasing need for higher safety levels. It also stems from our unyielding quest for convenience. Whatever the inspiration the end result carries many of the same questions.
The first question most people ask is, “how safe it is?” It is a natural response to letting a computer take over from you in a car. Although largely subconsciously, we are all aware of how fast we travel in cars and how dangerous it really is. The thought of simply passing over the controls to a computer is certainly a little scary. This is especially so when you consider how many times you’re PC or smart phone crashes or goes wrong in a month! One fault in an automated driver aid and the results could be catastrophic. Naturally the manufacturers are well aware of the potential risks so the odds are they would be very small indeed. The other thing to consider is human error; we are not exactly perfect either. If we were we wouldn’t crash so is the risk of a computer crashing for you any more scary than you crashing yourself?
The second question is will it work? This sounds like the same question but it is different in one major way. This question refers to the less critical and high speed inventions. Things like Jaguar Landrover’s new pothole avoidance system. Life and limb are not at stake here but ego and comfort certainly are. The same goes for automatic parallel park systems. They are a great idea but most people are not brave enough to use them in case they bump another car. There is no way the manufacturers would have released these systems in high end cars without making sure they worked. However, the thought of your car automatically reversing into another car and explaining it to the owner is just too much for some people.
At the end of the day automation is all around us and it has been a part of motoring for much longer than people realise. In the early days of motoring engines were hand cranked! The advent of the starter motor was certainly not unwelcome. This was especially true for people who received a broken arm from a crank spinning backwards. This kind of automation was, however, still under the control of the driver. It wasn’t until the advent of things like cruise control that people really had to “let go”. The idea of a computer controlling the throttle at high speed was a very big step and it was not without incident. These days though, cruise control is considered a very standard addition to motoring. The same could be said for automatic headlights and wipers, one touch electric windows and more.
As with all new technology, some of it sticks and some falls by the wayside to be looked at a laughed in 20 years’ time. The automation of the car is no exception and overtime the good ideas will become the norm. There are, however, a few ideas that don’t seem to have appeared yet. The idea of automated fire suppression systems would be very useful. At the moment you have to go to companies like www.f-e-v.co.uk to get the F1 style push button fire extinguisher systems. But wouldn’t it be great to have a car that would automatically put out any fire before you even noticed it? The car would simply do the work for you!
Let’s hope there are more convenience based inventions appearing on the market soon, and perhaps leave some of the safety element to the human beings for a while.