What Would Henry Ford Think?

With all the news about cars that will be able to drive themselves and new automotive technology in the works, I have begun to wonder whether things such as driver’s ed. will become obsolete for future generations.

Mnet 183616 Autonomous Car 0

I still vividly remember the grueling hours, or at least it felt that way at the time, in driver’s education classes. The tests and the hours logged behind the wheel with instructors may have been an irritating barrier between myself and the glorious freedom of a license but I wouldn’t go back and change that time. It was an important milestone in my life. But with all the news about cars that will be able to drive themselves and new automotive technology in the works, I wonder whether things such as driver’s ed. will become obsolete for future generations.

General Motors has released a statement about the “Super Cruise”, a new feature to be implemented in Cadillacs within the next two years. According GM CEO Mary Barra this new system would “increase the comfort of an attentive driver on freeways, both in bumper-to-bumper traffic and on long road trips.” This new technology allows the car to take control of steering, acceleration and braking in traffic or on the highway up to 70 miles per hour. Barra calls it “true luxury.” Though I must say, being able to sit back and relax behind the wheel during a traffic jam sounds appealing I can’t help but worry for the inattentive drivers out there. What happens when a relatively new system has people relaxing and not paying attention behind the wheel?

GM isn’t the only one participating in this automotive race to hands free driving either. Honda has produced a prototype for a car that can drive itself on the highway all while the driver’s hands are off the wheel. This prototype, an Acura RLX, is outfitted with cameras to keep track of lane markers, radar sensors, and a beacon that uses lasers to monitor the cars surroundings at all times. And not to be outdone by his competitors, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has also begun working on his own version of a self-driving car.

This trend toward cars with more control has me fairly cautious. We all know that cars are not infallible - there are recalls, and there are failures - but with a self-driving car or automated control systems, the stakes for any sort of mishap seem overwhelming. I will be the first to say this new technology is truly amazing. I can’t imagine Henry Ford ever envisioning a car being able to drive itself down the road. But overall, the sentimental side of me mourns the potential loss of a world where learning how to drive is an important rite of passage.  

Though this new technology represent strides in the automotive industry, for now I am going to enjoy having my own two hands firmly on the wheel and my own foot on the gas.

What do you think of the increasing presence of self-driving technologies in the automotive industry? Like me, do you have some concerns?


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