Computer, can legislation stop bad driving?
Block my cell phone please
I hate driving. OK, that’s not true. I hate driving around other people, especially in my congested neighborhood. Every single time I take a drive through my neighborhood I encounter a bad driver, literally, and a significant percent of the time that bad driver is on a cell phone, despite California laws against such driving.
But why care about cell phones, when out-of-control Toyotas are the real safety issue, right?
Sadly, in recent months the government and the AP, for instance, have significantly damaged Toyota’s reputation by suggesting that for years Toyota has engaged in practices that have endangered drivers. And, in fact, such suggestions are probably correct. Yet, such a reality only begs much larger, and much more disturbing, questions.
For instance, if Toyota’s bad safety practices go back at least five years or more, why has the consumer data during that era not reflected this reality? Likewise, why have countless studies demonstrated that more drivers die in any of the Big 3′s autos than in Toyota autos? Why, despite Toyota’s negligence, is driving a Toyota still safer than driving a vehicle from most of Toyota’s competitors, particularly one of Toyota’s American counterparts?
Ultimately, if Toyota is as reckless as many in the government and the press have suggested, then the evidence seems to suggest that most other automakers have been even more reckless. Of course, since the John Dingell’s of the Congress signficantly control this conversation in Congress, such a lack of objectivity – dare I say reality – is not surprising.
Ironically, despite the subjective hypocrisy in Congress, I cannot help but ask, is any automaker really being that reckless, or is the greatest automotive danger the driver, not the vehicle?
Regardless, soon black boxes and other safety features will be standard in all vehicles. Yet, how much safer will drivers be when, inevitably, in most cases, it isn’t cars that are killing people, it’s bad drivers?
Don’t get me wrong, new technologies can offset the dangers of bad driving. Computers, for instance, can help us protect us from ourselves, but such technologies won’t help much, at least not yet. Consequently, in recent days, many have questioned the costs of new black boxes, especially when coupled with the costs of new CAFE legislation. Quite simply, the critics contend, the cost of buying and owning an automobile is increasing, and such a trend is neither good for consumers, nor the long term prospects of the US auto industry.
I welcome more expensive automotive regulations. Certainly, it puts the future of the auto industry in a tough predicament, I concur, but such regulations do help fight America’s addiction to foreign oil. Nevertheless, critics can argue, if vehicle costs go up, Americans will buy fewer cars and the grand ole days of the Big 3, then, truly might be over.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
For instance, many drivers of hybrid cars have been taught to drive anew thanks to the green leaves of on-board computer systems, such as found in the Ford Fusion hybrid, for example. And this is just the beginning of the computer-driven evolution of the automobile. Coincidentally, however, computers aren’t really that expensive. In fact, using computers to make autos more fuel efficient and safer is far cheaper than adding more steel, size and horspeower to our autos, or at least it could be.
Quite recently I stated that the idea of adding a plug and a battery to our current fleet of automobiles and calling that a solution makes no sense, probably to the offense of many plug-in and hybrid fans. Honestly, however, such a plan simply isn’t cost-effective and the plethora of studies on automotive cost-effectiveness speak for themselves on this issue. One way or another, the current idea of personal transportation in America MUST be entirely thrown out, as such an idea is simply inefficient by design from the ground, and the oil well, up.
Sadly, while it is true that black boxes will do little to make the auto safer in the short term, they will help further the growing importance of the computer upon the auto industry. Eventually, hopefully, Big 3 automakers will realize that the computer – not size, horsepower, etc – is the key to the auto industry. More important, while materialistic ego might dominate the auto consumer of today, it will be computerized-applications that will drive the auto consumer of tomorrow.
One way or another, the driver of tomorrow will be more concerned with maintaining their social network while traveling from point A to point B than they will be with how they look to those outside their network traveling from point A to point B. In the future, most commuters I’ll bet, will rather drive the latest edition of Midnight Club on the way to work rather than to navigate a hot-ass gas-guzzler through 30 minutes of stop-and-go traffic.