By LUKE SMITH
It is hard to believe that cars really haven’t been a part of human existence all that long. The first one hit the road in the late 1800s. The idea of every family having a vehicle as an essential component of their lives didn’t really become a reality until after World War II.
Early vehicles would be hardly recognizable today; all lacked safety features we take for granted and most were very bare-bones machines.
Fast forward to today and car technology is advancing so quickly it can be hard to keep up. Safety features such as airbags and seatbelts are standard, but new features such as forward collision warning and auto braking are becoming mainstream. Likewise, numerous sensors, bells, and whistles help us keep our machines running smoothly and cushions or heated seats help us ride in comfort on any journey.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of new cars today is the technology. Tech is pushing the boundaries of what we expect in our vehicles from a safety standpoint as well as from an entertainment one. The advancements on the horizon are things that were unthinkable in the past and, in some ways, things we hardly dare to believe now.
A Smart Car
These days, the technologies that come in our vehicles are not only important selling points, but they are downright clever advances.
One of the big things many people have come to expect in their vehicles is connectivity. A connection to the internet and connections to smartphones are hot-button advancements in most newer models. These smartphone connections allow for all sorts of things, from playing music wirelessly to tracking your teenager’s whereabouts through an app.
Other smart technologies that are becoming mainstream features in our cars are those that have to deal with safety. Many manufacturers now offer some form of advanced driver-assist systems in their vehicles. This can mean a lot of things, but the gist is that driver assist offers features that take some of the effort out of driving and, in theory, enhance safety. Advanced driver-assist systems can include things like:
- Lane departure warnings.
- Adaptive cruise control.
- Automatic emergency braking.
- Blindspot alerts.
- Assisted parking.
- Reverse braking assistance.
- Exit warning systems.
So far, drivers are having mixed reactions to the advanced driver-assist functions. Some people are eager to do less in their vehicles, while others would rather maintain control and not have to worry about a car feature kicking in while they are doing something slightly technical like parallel parking.
AAA has also found mixed results in actual safety benefits, warning that the technologies are still in the early stages of development and becoming too dependent upon them can lead to problems.
Self-Driving Coming Soon?
Arguably the biggest advancement that many people are looking forward to is the introduction of the self-driving car. Hype for these cars appears to have its ebbs and flows, but many think the technology is on the verge of becoming a reality. It could be something that many of us start seeing in the next couple of decades and our grandchildren may never even know what it is like to actually drive a car.
There are certainly pros and cons to the technologies that come with self-driving vehicles. Many advocates argue that self-driving vehicles have the potential to greatly reduce driving accidents and deaths. They say the tech has the potential to take out the human error factor, which can cause over 90% of serious accidents.
Advocates also point to a number of other benefits including things like accessibility and environmental impacts. Self-driving cars mean that anyone can jump in a vehicle and go somewhere; they eliminate boundaries for those that are unable to drive. Additionally, advocates point to data suggesting that self-driving vehicles could reduce traffic jams and increase fuel efficiencies, which would be a benefit from an environmental standpoint.
Many of these technological advancements offer a great means of increasing safety and making car travel even more convenient and enjoyable. However, there are some inherent risks associated with the tech. For one, extensive technology in vehicles opens the door for cybersecurity concerns.
Connective technologies that are essential for things like self-driving vehicles mean that your car is connected to a much larger grid. Much like connecting your computer to the internet, a gridded car connection exposes vehicles to the potential for hacking. It’s hard to say what could happen, but hackers that are able to gain access to a vehicle could have control over acceleration, braking, radio, and other technologies.
Fortunately, this is a risk that many experts are aware of and are actively trying to combat. Many companies are developing software that will allow them to identify when a hack is occurring and combat it rapidly across the country. Some experts think there may need to be features that allow vehicles to be transferred back to owner control in these instances.
Advancements in vehicle tech are happening faster than many of us are able to keep up with. New entertainment and safety tech such as advanced driver-assist systems are considered precursors to self-driving cars. Though these new technologies are exciting, there are still a number of risks, including cybersecurity vulnerabilities, that need to be worked out before they are really ready to hit the road.