Car Evolution – Lane Departure Warning a Fix for Reckless Driving?

Galileo once said: “La mathematica é l’alfabeto nel quale DIO ha scritto l’universo.” This translates to “Mathematics is the alphabet with which God has written the universe”. I love the quote and it feels so right. There’s a wonder to math and the problems that have been solved due to the discipline. Science, together with math and research, has enabled space travel, the field of communications, organ transplants and the 8th wonder of the world, Google.

It’s natural for science and math to be considered mutually important in advancements and together, they’ve enabled the advancement in technology across all fields (medical, finance, industrial, social, etc.). I love the possibilities offered by technology. It’s the advancement in technology that will enable us to solve the mysteries of the universe just as much as Galileo credited mathematics for.

This naturally brings us to something Galileo probably didn’t see coming – the need to park a car between two stacks of champagne glasses:

Well that was back in August 2006 and I remember immediately thinking that’s pretty cool, followed by so that’s so lazy, followed by being able to reverse into a parking spot one handed is part of being a good driver, and now this automation might mean I’m less of a man? I was so confused because technology is traditionally a male focused sport (not sure why and I love the initiatives to encourage more females into tech careers) and a self parking car felt like it went against manliness. It’s as though Audi read my mind as they released a commercial for their luxury car for drivers who can park themselves (the 2007 Audi A4):

Not too much was said about self parking cars over the next few years. It’s true that more cars had external proximity sensors and backup cams, nothing too exciting. Fast forward 8 years and what’s changed? Well, lots… especially in the last two years.

Google developed prototypes of its self driving cars:

The one, less senior, person they put in the car did describe benefits I hadn’t thought of: “So if I had a self driving car I could have more time hanging out with with my kids, helping them with homework, even just tending to them and finding out how their day was.” No sure I could ever take my eyes off the road – I have a hard time not looking out of the window when flying!

It was in other related videos and stories that the idea of self driving cars really does seem attractive: fewer potential accidents, more efficient streets and commutes, connected and safer cars, accessibility for all. Obviously this technology is a long way off, or so I thought.

Hyundai Genesis’ Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) above and Honda’s below:

And check out the Mercedes Benz E Class with its Assistance Systems Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist:

So is it good? Is it progress? Are we losing our manhood/womanhood/human-ness? I’m not so sure. It seems like all car makers are getting in on the act and it does seem like the technology bridge between what we generally have on the roads now and a possibly reality of fully self driving cars. But just as the TV remote (the absolute perfect example of laziness being the mother of invention) made us couch potatoes (reducing our physical activity) will the sensors and alerts in my car mean I don’t need to think about my blind spots as much before I switch lanes?

This is where the risk lies. In fact the advancements in technology, especially those that lead to increased safety and a reduction in accidents are undeniably a great thing, but I cannot help thinking that some of the changes will lead to more driver complacency. As a driver in NYC, I’ve seen enough to motivate me to buy a dash cam, but now that TV commercials are forgiving “lane departure” and providing a solution that fixes the symptoms and not the cause, it makes me even more concerned. I’m in awe of the ad person who came up with the phrase “lane departure system” it does sound so much better than reckless driving.

Although we are more than a step away from truly self driving cars, as our reality is data collection and use for commercial gain, what does seem an immediate certainty is that the computer inside our cars will begin to collect data. Why? Well for a commercial fleet, managers will want to know who their most dangerous drivers are, as will insurance companies themselves. Also remember the last video above, the Mercedes Benz E Class can automatically apply the brakes if it senses danger and should an accident result, who is to blame? Who was ‘driving’ at the time?

While I expected my car to be flying by now, I’m also sad I don’t have a stick shift – I miss the three pedals.

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