What We Need Is a Car That Slaps You Silly

18 Nov, 2016 Bob Wilson


Having just successfully passed my 56th birthday, I recognize that I am gradually, and quite comfortably, transitioning to the role of easily annoyed old fart. Things that used to irritate me internally are now much more easy to celebrate in public view, as my ability to share that irritation with those around me has improved dramatically. Used to be that I had to bite my tongue and respect my elders; now I am facing the reality that I will soon be one of those elders. It is happening much faster than I anticipated in my ignorant youth – like when I was 52.

I suppose that is why the story published in our CompNewsNetwork yesterday caught my eye. I am a bit of an oddball for my generation, being more technically aware than many of my demographically aligned peers. There are not that many aging nerds in my generation. Well, there are a few, but most of them are billionaires by now. There just aren’t that many aging nerds still down with the struggle. But I digress…

The story I mention was about a study completed by Missouri Employers Mutual and the MU College of Engineering, where it was determined that three out of four drivers improve their driving when using collision avoidance technology (CAT). 

The study examined “how drivers react and feel when using aftermarket CAT devices”. Researchers “selected four commercially available CAT systems for the study based on system features, cost and installation procedure.” Interestingly, they found that systems that provided only audio warnings of potential safety hazards such as lane drift or following too closely were not as effective as those systems that provided both audio and visual warnings. They also found that cheaper, less sophisticated systems caused higher false positives, with the result that the drivers would turn them off or ignore them.

They must’ve been younger drivers if they simply turned it off. I can tell you that cranky aging farts would just rip the damn thing off the dash and throw it out the f’ing window. Snowflakes.

Anyhoo, researchers found that when alerts were active, warnings were reduced:

        • 43 percent for lane departures
        • 71 percent for following a vehicle too close
        • 57 percent for forward collisions

I am fascinated by the autonomous driving technologies that have rapidly evolved over the last few years. Sure, Woody Allen, in the movie Sleeper, demonstrated to us that it would be an eventuality, but for those of us previously described as easily annoyed old farts it is the stuff of a true Buck Rogers storyline. Ok – even I don’t go back that far. Make that the stuff of an original Star Trek storyline. Cars that can monitor your position and situation in relation to everything around you, as well as warn you or even intercede on your ignorant and oblivious behalf, are really amazing creations indeed.

The statistics the study generated are pretty impressive, but I tell you, we can do better. Collision avoidance devices need to add a third element of interaction to be truly effective in their role. They need to get downright physical.

While some of these systems, such as automatic braking systems, can act on behalf of the unaware driver, most are still just helpless passengers on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. They can only sit there, beeping and flashing helplessly while some texting moron meanders underneath the semi-truck in the next lane, crushing everything and everyone in the vehicle. Pity that the person they were texting was probably in the back seat. No, true safety improvement will occur when the warning device will have the ability to slap the crap out of the ignorant dumbass behind the wheel.

We’ve all seen these people. And we’ve all wanted to slap the crap out of them. The guy with a book held up to the steering wheel. A woman applying makeup in heavy traffic. The person busy texting while driving at a high rate of speed, with two little kids in the back seat. Wouldn’t it be great if safety devices could do the heavy hitting for us?

There are other physical interactions that could occur. Phones could be programmed to detect texting during movement, and instruct the car to pull onto the shoulder and park while simultaneously hailing an Uber. Better yet, portable devices could be programmed to self-destruct if they sense they are being unsafely used. I think Samsung was working on that technology with their Galaxy Note phone and tablets, but they just had a little trouble tweaking the difference between flying and driving; but good for them, nonetheless.

Truly interactive collision avoidance devices could really save a lot of lives and reduce workers’ compensation claims, while providing valuable entertainment for us old codgers in the adjoining lane. It’s a win-win all the way around.

Interactive Collision Avoidance Technology; an idea borne from the fusion of technology and old codgery. It’s a beautiful thing, indeed.

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