Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Stay Alive. Don't Use A Smart Car and Drive

Almost everywhere that you go, you are likely to see a campaign sign or bumper sticker that says "Stay Alive. Don't Text and Drive." Even when I took my driver's permit test last summer, one of the questions on the test was whether texting while driving is safe. The obvious answer is "no," yet there are a lot of people on the road who don't quite understand this concept. While not texting during driving is an important message, it's interesting to think that texting may be more dangerous on the road than any other distraction...Or is it?

In a recent New York Times article, columnist Maureen Dowd discusses how automobiles are now "smart cars" that possess the capability to read your text messages to you, manage and play your iPod, adhere to your emotional needs (i.e. you're having a bad day, so your car will cheer you up through vibrating seats or heated steering wheel), and even manage your email for you. All of this while you're driving! Is this safe? Perhaps the larger question is whether or not it's rational to countenance any distraction whatsoever. What happened to simply listening to the radio or having a conversation with yourself as you drive? Do our lives really demand that we be constantly connected? If so, where do we draw the line?

No research is available at the present time to offer a reference to the affect that these smart cars are causing on drivers, but there are many potential dangers to such technology. Sue Cishke, a Ford executive, argues:

Given that Americans are addicted to Web access and tech toys...It will never work to simply ban them. So we’ve got to figure out how we make people safer, and the more people can just talk to their car like they’re talking to a passenger, the more useful it would be.

Perhaps Ms. Cishke has a point. Maybe the automobile industry should serve consumers who demand smart cars. Or maybe the automobile industry should serve consumers with the need for boundaries regarding automobiles and technology that provide constant connectivity. Ultimately, safety is important, and it's wonderful to have automobile technology with vehicles that strive to protect and serve the driver. Still, there comes a point when too many bells and whistles pose a threat to overall security because of the fact that these same bells and whistles provide the most dangerous thing on the road: distraction.

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