Driving Isn’t In Our Collective Automotive Future

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The tendency in automotive media (of which I consider myself a peripheral member) is to focus on the positives and negatives of the cars that are available in the hear and now. Which truck has a more realistic tow rating? Which car is a better value? Which auto executive is smarter than the rest? Etc.

One topic that doesn’t seem to get enough attention in the automotive press is the idea that, in the near future, driving is going to be incredibly easy. In fact, drivers themselves may be mostly unnecessary in a generation (maybe sooner).

Stick with me and think about how driving has changed in just the last twelve years:

  • No more manual transmission options on most vehicles – driving complexity is greatly reduced
  • Many vehicles offer proximity sensors to help with parking, and some cars even park themselves
  • ABS and traction control are found on almost all new cars – correcting for inclement weather is easier than ever
  • Stability control and roll-over sensors prevent accidents before they ever happen. Poor judgment on behalf of the driver is corrected now more than ever.
  • It’s now possible to buy a car that will warn you when you’re following too closely and automatically apply the brakes if you aren’t paying attention.
  • Safety systems have become so effective that NHTSA had to re-calibrate their “5 star” ratings

While many will argue that these enhancements aren’t really enhancements, there’s no denying that driving is less complex and therefore easier today than it was a short while ago.

The amazing thing is that these enhancements are just the tip of the iceberg.

Imagine a future where cars are networked to one another. It might sound a little unbelievable, but in terms of feasibility, all the electronics are already designed…chances are, you’ve got all the equipment you need in your pocket right now (hint: it’s your cell phone). If cell phones can communicate text messages and GPS data, it’s a short leap to integrate one into your car and have it share information about your speed and direction with other cars.

Networked cars that share speed and direction information could be orchestrated just like the Internet moves packets of information. You tell the network where you want to go, and it takes your car along the fastest route to your destination.

Google robotic car

Google's Robotic Car - No Driver Required. Image from New York Times - click to read more.

Sensing technology has made incredible strides as well. Google built a car that can drive itself, for example, with the drivers noting that the only accident after 140k miles of travel was caused when a human rear-ended the robotic car as it was sitting at a red light.


I leave you with two thoughts.

1. Networking cars will be the most significant technological advance in auto transportation since the invention of fuel injection. It will enhance safety, reduce fuel consumption, cut back on commute times, and help us maximize our nation’s limited infrastructure.

2. The video you’re about to see isn’t science fiction. Today’s most advanced fighter jet has a system that does almost everything that a pilot does. Why would anyone assume that this same technology won’t eventually make it to cars?

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Comments? Should a driver-less future scare us?

Filed Under: TundraHeadquarters.com

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  1. thunder road says:

    i got all around protection with my valentine 1.

  2. Chris says:

    This means Toyota must have loved my rant about driver control on their sales survey – Absolutely loved it, good!

    Let them rethink taking control for another 200 years and it still won’t be the right time.

  3. mk says:

    Yes, this scares me. All this techy crap makes drivers unaware of their surroundings and wish the NAV system or the likes like a 8″ touch screen for all kinds of crap that is not needed would be eliminated by the govt. What is going to happen if and more importantly WHEN the electronics fail and trust me, they will fail and get recalled eventually. Give me power brakes, power windows, and power steering anyday over backup camera, NAV system, DVD players. Call me old school but if all these high-tech consumers would not buy all this crap maybe the automakers would concentrate on building a fuel efficient vehicle by saying for example our tundras should easily get 25 mpg hwy very easily in today’s technology.

  4. Jason (Admin) says:

    Thunder Road – Is that a a radar detector reference? I’m thinking that networked cars would never speed unless the network deemed it necessary…but who knows. No more speeding tickets sounds like a good thing.

    Chris – I posited my little theory to friends and a lot of them had the same reaction. I think that I might be a little ambitious in my predictions in terms of time line, but none the less I’m confident it will happen someday.

    mk – Very good point. If we made vehicles simpler, they could be less costly and maybe even more efficient. This is one of the constants in technology – for every advance, there is a logical argument for taking a step backward.

    To all – Thank you all for indulging me in my futuristic post.

  5. Mickey says:

    Good reading and it also brings back some memories. Back in the turn of the century at the Naval War College we wargame what was called the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) which was the F-35 and the Navy’s version of it also. Yes it will comea time that technology will drive us. MK the backup camera is worth what it cost and that’s one technology that helps saves injuries/deaths/and material costs. I would rather having it vice power windows and seats. I don’t look the fool with plenty of dents in bumper and license plate from the missed connections. One time vice several without camera and I’m connected. Less time making the connection. Yes if I was younger I can move the trailer to the ball hitch but I’m not so convience does have a place here. As for the rest I do agree. I don’t get lost and I don’t have a GPS. No matter where I go I still have the trusty map. Navigation is good but getting it updated is ridiculous so why have it. Under $10 you can get a decent Rand Mcnally book map.

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