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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Proximity


Imagine you are in sunrise commute traffic in a city of over one million people like Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Sacramento. It’s grey, kind of foggy, and damp. Your silver car is in lane number three headed into town along with a quarter of the city’s population. You reach for your cup of coffee nestled in the cup holder then BAM! The silver van on your left slipped in front of you at the same time the bluish-grey compact on your right plowed into the shared lane. You have less than two seconds to hit the brakes and pray.
How many times have you seen this played out as near misses or actual collisions that include two, three, up to ten cars twisted in the worse commute day ever? I count on the experience daily and hope that I am aware enough to avoid any entanglement.
“I think every major city in America should only drive Google-cars—those computerized cars that drive themselves,” I said to my friend yesterday.
“I don’t. I don’t trust computers. They are always down.”
“Well, then, proximity sensors all the way around the cars. At least the people who are sober and awake could avoid collisions.”
“It would be too costly.”
“That was the same logic used against seat belts. Once they became mandatory…”
“We don’t need government in our lives telling businesses what to do. That’s why cars cost too much. Manufacturers were forced to put in seat belts and caused prices to go up.”
“But once they were in place, the prices dropped significantly, and lives were saved.”

A report from Freight 2013 stated that 40% of trucking accidents discussed were from types—rear ends, crossovers, and head-ons—that could have been avoided with sensors. According to http://www.drugabuse.gov/.  “…more than 16 percent of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs. More than 11 percent tested positive for illicit drugs.” One in five surveyed American drivers admitted to drinking and driving. How many of us eat, drink coffee, text, yell at the kid in the back seat, or day dream while driving?
A whole lot of us are driving impaired, in a rush, and not paying attention.  You in lane two and you in lane four are out to get us in lane three. If my car can’t avoid the accident on its own, then, by golly, shouldn’t it at least warn me of impending doom?
My great grandfather drove a Ford Model A—14.9 Horsepower, top speed of 63 MPH, with a driving range of 20 to 40 miles. Two and a half generations later, I could drive a Ford Taurus—240 Horsepower, top speed of 200 MPH, with a driving range of 300 to 360 miles. I don’t know about yours, but my brain has not developed enough to make life-saving decisions three times faster than my ancestor for six times as long of period. I’m not that smart.

The human race can use a hand or a chip, in this case, to make our morning drive safer. If I can’t have my Google-limo, I want my proximity sensors. Please.