The features discussed are:
More than a million people die in car accidents each year but experts in the industry now believe fatal smashes could be eliminated. Some hope there could be an end to car crashes altogether.
Scientists and engineers are developing technology and enhancements to cars that would aid drivers to the extent that crashes would become rarer events. Bad weather conditions and poor judgement would be mitigated by the car itself.
- Automatic braking, using GPS and proximity sensors to detect when another car or object is too close
- Infrared cameras to monitor the driver's head position and gaze, so that the car knows where you are looking at any given time
- Virtual crash-test dummies, which can be used to test a massive number of design features in a far shorter time
- Robot doctors that can allow an A&E specialist to guide ambulance crews at the scene of a crash in the best strategies for dealing with a casualty
- Cars which can alert the emergency services if they detect something that is not within the normal range of car behaviour (that's a sinister phrase if ever I heard one), and even report likely injuries following a crash.
I'm not so sure. I am certain that we have the capability to produce, eventually, cars which don't crash, which can't crash. Cars which look after you so well that they won't let you do anything that might result in a loss of control, which monitor the weather and your speed, the terrain you are driving through, and the cars around you, and react instantly as soon as they detect a potential accident. But do we want them?
Relatives and loved ones of people who have died in cars (always the worst people to ask about road safety, in my opinion, as they have no objectivity) will no doubt clamour for all these 'advances' to be included on all new cars. "If it saves just one life ..."
I beg to differ. A life without challenges and risks is no life at all. If cars become, as the article suggests they might, 100% safe by removing all opportunities for the driver to get it wrong, then where will be the pleasure in that? If I want a journey where I have to do nothing but sit and be a passenger, then I will take the train or a bus. If I want the thrills of driving without any potential painful consequences, I will play a video game (life, sadly, doesn't have a 'Back' button). But I ride a bike (and to a lesser extent, drive a car) partly because it is a challenge to my skills, and exercising those skills in a real-life situation enhances my life. Take away the challenge, and you take away the whole experience. I am a lousy passenger anyway.
And, to go a step further, do we want a life without risks? It is said that, to know true happiness, you must also have known true pain. And a sunny day is just another sunny day, unless it is preceded by rain and followed by fog, at which point it becomes a joy and a blessing. I've known people leave the UK for a sunny climate, who have complained that they get 'bored with all the good weather'. Life needs light and shade. All shade is pure misery - but all light is dull as ditchwater, and a kind of hell in another way.
Am I arguing that car accidents and road deaths are a good thing? Probably not, but I can't buy into the idea that life is perfectible either - and if it is, I wouldn't want it to be. Some bad things happen, and we have to live with that. It's what makes us human.
I am reminded of that horrible scene at the end of Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange, when Alex gets his 'scientific' treatment to cure him of his despicable violence. At the end of it, he is no longer a violent thug, but he has also lost his passionate love of Beethoven, and the implication is that the 'cure' was, if not worse than the disease, then at least an evil compromise.
The future is bland, the future's beige.