Computerized cars answer to texting epidemic

textdriveeditors-blog-entry3Are you as fed up with people who text while driving as I am?

I pray every day that my family and I don’t get taken out by some selfish idiot who thinks it’s okay to surf the web while steering (or trying to steer) a several thousand-pound metal box around at 75 mph.

I also pray that if anyone is going to be taken out by the texting/surfing driver, that it happens in this order: 1) the driver who’s texting; 2) anyone who argues that the freedom to text/surf and drive is worth dying for.

Of course, the world isn’t just, or fair, and so it doesn’t usually happen like that. Instead, thousands of innocent, non-texting/surfing drivers/passengers end up as the victims of others’ stupidity.

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Technology to the rescue?
Luckily, it looks like technology might end up rescuing us from our society’s addiction to – that’s right – technology!

Applications that prevent people from using phones while driving a vehicle are gaining in popularity, in particular with parents of teen drivers and corporate fleet managers.

Among the different types of technology:

  • Software that uses on-phone GPS or in-vehicle Blue-tooth systems to determine when a vehicle is moving and which prevents use;
  • Devices that connect to the vehicles on-board diagnostics port, shutting off gadgets while the vehicle is moving;
  • Detection, jamming, monitoring and sensors.

Jamming others’ access?
The jamming approach sounds especially promising, especially if someone has the smarts to extend the jamming ability beyond an individual car to cars around you. That way you could shut down the texting morons zooming next to you and who, at any moment, could send you, and others around them, into the permanent hereafter.

googlecarOf course, jamming fellow motorists’ cell phone access is only an interim solution on the road to the ultimate solution to the distracted driving epidemic. This epidemic has grown exponentially with the rise of small, wireless mobile communication devices – can you say thousands of texts sent every day by many young people? — and has created a situation in which it’s fair to wonder what the real distraction is for many, surfing/texting, or driving the vehicle itself!

This ultimate technological solution: Vehicles driven 100-percent by computers. Computerized cars and drivers aren’t a far-off fantasy out of a movie such as the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Total Recall, they’re here, right now, thanks in part to Google’s considerable investment in the technology.

I bet we see large numbers of essentially computer-driven vehicles within my lifetime (I’m 45, BTW). That is, assuming my life doesn’t get cut short by a texting driver before I reach old age.

Computer-driven vehicles
In fact, I bet we see large numbers of essentially computer-driven vehicles within my lifetime (I’m 45, BTW). That is, assuming my life doesn’t get cut short by a texting driver before I reach old age.

Not only would computer-driven cars eliminate the annoyance that driving appears to be for for the up-and-coming-send-at-least-1,000-texts-a-day generation most of whom I’m convinced would much rather free up more time to text and surf than deal with the mundane task of navigating an auto, it would take the weakest, most dangerous link out of the driving equation: the human driver.

In the process, we’d essentially eliminate traffic jams – nearly all of which are caused by human drivers – and, more importantly, eliminate traffic accident injuries and deaths. Globally, more than one million people die in traffic accidents every year.

Driver control an illusion
Think most people aren’t ready to give up their “control” over their vehicle? Think again.

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[I put “control” in quotes because anyone who’s ever been in a traffic accident that was completely beyond their control – I got sideswiped by a drunk driver once — knows that the idea of driver control in moving traffic is largely an illusion]

Once recent poll found 50% of people are fine with handing over the keys to a computerized driving system. The other 50%?

Driving die-hards will die off
Most of them would be, or should I say, will be quickly converted once they watch traffic jams disappear.

And the die hards who insist – incorrectly, by the way – that having individual “control” over a vehicle is safer than handing the keys over to a computer?

They may never be converted. Eventually, though, they will die off and be replaced by generations of humans who will know nothing other than computer-driven vehicles and who, I’m certain, will far prefer surfing the Internet (or its replacement, whatever that might look like), to steering a metal box around.

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