In a world where self-driving vehicles are coming within reach and such things as prosthetic limbs with actual physical sensations are on the horizon — and there are so many other exciting new and sometimes scarily high-tech gadgets are all around us — it’s curious that one of our young Silicon Valley mover-shakers out there hasn’t come up with the answer to one of our deadly highway killers — drowsy driving.
What I have in mind is just a simple electronic gizmo which, if we go glassy-eyed and start nodding off while driving, does something really unpleasant to one of our body parts. After a couple of jolts to the whatever it seems to me we’d be a lot less likely to drive in that condition, don’t you think?
I read an article about an automotive engineer somewhere who designed and built the prototype for a safer and more positive automobile steering device based on the principles used for the fly-by-wire stick and rudder technology used on modern aircraft. Seemed like a heck of an idea to many, but it never went anywhere because, if memory serves, some “suit “ upstairs at one of the major automakers thought that no matter how good the idea, the public would never give up their beloved traditional steering wheel.
Here’s another idea, and one I’ve been salivating about for years. Were it not for the objections of those who think that speed limits apply only to others, this deceptively simple idea could have been developed and marketed years ago and by now could have saved millions of lives. If I knew how to get this to market I’d patent the idea, make gazillions and retire to my old gillnetter on the Oregon coast.
This would be for use on highways and freeways, but could be adapted for other kinds of roadways. It would consist of sensors embedded in the roadways and a simple device on the car. The technology doubtless exists.
Let’s say you’re driving from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City. When you get onto the Interstate northbound you simply program your destination and where you want to stop for meals, rest or whatever and push a button. You can re-program at any time in case you change your mind. The device does the rest.
Depending on how fast you want to get there and your comfort level, you simply maneuver your car into Lane 1 or Lane 2, assuming there are two traffic lanes going in your direction. The pre-programmed speed in Lane 1 – or what is now known as the “passing lane” — is, let’s say, 75 mph. But, in Lane two it’s 55 mph or variations of these speeds.
The system will determine your speed and following distance. All the cars in your lane will be traveling at the same speed and spaced at a safe following distance so collisions and other conflicts are things of the past.
There would be no dangerous lane changing and no risky tailgating. Just switch ‘er on and take a nap, play cards, listen to music, watch TV or whatever until you are automatically warned five miles before your destination. How simple and how safe can it get?
And, there’s a bonus! This gets rid of those hundred-mile-an -hour NASCAR wannabes! Sorry lads, but it’s for your own good — and ours.
In my view, automakers keep adding new toys and gadgets to help sell cars, but few are essential and most do little more than take the our attention away from the road. The rearview camera is a good example. It fools drivers into thinking they have an accurate view to the rear — when they really don’t — and it discourages drivers from checking their blind spots when backing. It’s a good tool for motorhome and other large rig operators, but for others it is, in my view, a distraction at best.
While I’m on the subject, when auto makers show beautiful people racing around at warp speed on TV commercials, it looks cool and may sell some cars. But, immature drivers surely imitate this behavior. Driving and riding with other youngsters is the leading killer of our kids. In my view, these commercials should be powerful messages for driving safety.