Technology has changed the way we live our lives and in many ways, it has altered the way we drive. Today’s cars, trucks, SUVs, minivans and commercial work trucks come with a bounty of extra features designed to increase comfort, convenience and functionality but are all these changes and advancements beneficial for drivers today or are some of them hurting us? Today, we’re covering it all… the good, the bad and the ugly of car technology.
Cars have evolved immensely over the last 120 years as well as the features that have become standard within them. With technological advancements in materials and a shift on keeping passengers in motor vehicles out of harm’s way; today’s cars, trucks, SUVs and minivans have become safer than they ever have been before. Particularly, over the course of just the last decade, there have been incredible developments in design, technology and fabrication that have brought us some impressive advancements, reducing the severity of collisions even if they do still take place.
Overall, vehicles have become safer than they have ever been in history, in large part due to leaps in materials used to build the cars, vans, trucks and SUVs. Advancements in steel, along with strategic use of other materials such as aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber, now allow engineers to design structures that can dissipate and redirect crash forces. These advancements have lessened the severity of impact on human bodies by distributing it into the vehicle, thus saving lives. In addition, many safety features which were only options before are becoming standard today including airbags, backup cameras, electronic stability controls, tire pressure monitors and daytime running lights.
While vehicles have become safer with technological advances in safety features and government mandates for features to be standard on every vehicle rather than simply being an added feature buyers can opt for as they have been in the past. And yet vehicular fatalities have been on the rise. In fact, from 2015-2017 facilities from car accidents rose 7% each year after they had dropped in 2008 and only rising slightly in the years to follow. What has been the most predominant blame for this spike and continued rise in serious accidents? Distracted driving.
Sadly, even as our vehicles have become safer than they’ve ever been, one of the most important factors remains the driver who is manning the vehicle. Unfortunately, in this case, technology has become a bane on our existence. With smartphone use on the rise and not stopping anytime soon, it has become a large factor in this rising trend but it’s not the only one. Many people (80% to be exact) believe that hands-free talking, texting or navigating are safer but this couldn’t be further than from the truth. The reality is, talk to text can surprisingly be more distracting than by texting by hand! In over 30 studies, it has been proven time after time that the brain remains distracted despite the hands now being free. Additionally, 53% of people of U.S. driver’s believe that hands-free units and infotainment centers in dashboards must be safer if they are built into current vehicles. This myth has propagated a larger problem where drivers feel overconfident using these in-vehicle systems when they should instead be limiting their usage. While infotainment centers are surely going to remain, an awareness that they are more likely to lead us to being distracted behind the wheel can largely help make a significant difference in reducing the number of crashes caused by using them while driving.
Autonomous vehicles have been discussed at length for the last decade but more recently, they have become the focal point for many companies who are determined to create the first fully automated vehicle and are in a race to accomplish it before anyone else. But while companies like Tesla, Uber and many car manufacturers have been rushing to test experimental self-driving vehicles and autonomous systems on roads, some testing has been suspended due to incidents involving self-driving vehicles, including fatalities. These accidents have called into question the capability for artificial intelligence to correctly understand what is directly in their path and knowing the best course of action to take in order to avoid them in every situation. Another conundrum speaks more to the ethical question if machines can make human decisions as concisely. One of these problems is the “trolley problem” which requires the autonomous system to choose between two potential victims in an accident. Leaving many to wonder… are machines fully ready to make these kinds of difficult choices? Based on the suspension of further testing in many cities, the resounding answer is not quite yet.
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