It was not too long ago where the buckling ourselves into a car seat was cutting edge “technology” for road safety. Technology would grow as our eyes were then opened to safety devices such as airbags, anti-lock braking systems and crumple zones. This was all cutting edge stuff! Well, in 2011, car companies began to publicize an idea that would bring vehicle safety to a whole other level—a crash-proof car. In an article by Lucy Rodgers entitled, “How close are we to a crash-proof car?”, we take a look at the technology behind this idea as well as the reactions it has received since surfacing.
According to the article, 1.3 million people are killed and 50 million injured as a result of car crashes every year. As a result, car companies are “racing” to make this crash-proof car a reality. Among many companies to come out and announce their intent on creating such a model, Volvo’s “Vision 2020”, is one of the most publicized. With this “Vision 2020”, Volvo has pledged that after the year 2020, “no-one will be killed or seriously injured in one of its new cars,” according to the article. The video below demonstrates the confidence Volvo has in the power of this technology. Check it out.
From this, we ask ourselves two questions: First, is this idea of a crash-proof car realistic? And, secondly, if so, will drivers be accepting or willing to purchase a car that overrides their driving? Let’s take a look at the technology that makes this idea even possible. Seen below is a depiction of what this technology is capable of and a video that explains how it works.
|"Radar, sonar and other sensors will extend its so-called "deformation zone" until it becomes, in essence, a huge electronic bumper reaching out on all sides to gather information to feed back to the vehicle." (www.reuters.com)|
After evaluating the possibility of a crash-proof car, it is clear that it provides several advantages, the most important of them being the potential for reduced fatalities and injuries. To put the danger of car crashes into perspective, here are a few more statistics from the article. 70% of car crashes that occur in the UK are as a result of operator error. Further, the article mentions that this technology could reduce car crashes causing injury by 28% and reduce the number of deaths by 15%. From these statistics, it is clear why people would support this technology. Besides the point that one could be lazy and multi-task while the car drives itself, it also has the ability to save lives. And to put the percentages into perspective, this technology has the ability to save almost 200,000 lives each year.
On the other hand, it is arguable that technology that takes responsibility away from the driver makes matters worse. As Peter Rodger explains, “We have to be confident that the engineering can cope with a range of complexities in the same way as a human.” In other words, we are basically placing the same value on the abilities of technology as we do on humans. Some car companies, specifically Volvo, seem to be blind to the fact that technology can fail. If failure occurs, someone’s life is at a high risk. Despite the number of lives the technology might save, it just takes one error to make a bad impression on potential buyers.
In conclusion, as seen in the depiction and video of the present-day technology above, it is evident that this technology is beneficial for drivers across the world. The problem arises when the discussion advances to taking this technology to the next level where the car would take over all driving responsibilities. In my opinion, this is where Volvo’s “2020 Vision” becomes blurred.