Do I want my vehicle to think for me?

I remember when I was a teenager (yes, that was a few years ago) working in my father’s service station. The latest safety gadget in new vehicles was a buzzer that warned the driver when seatbelts were not fastened. That’s a good idea, right? Apparently not, as customers were coming in to see if they could have the buzzer removed or disabled. If everyone got in, fastened their seatbelts and then the driver started the car, no one ever heard the buzzer. The trouble was that this was not the habit and it was easier to silence the buzzer than it was to change behaviour.

Fast forward to today and we are starting to see a range of new driver assistance technologies being implemented. Backup cameras, lane departure warnings, automatic emergency braking, vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure communication are just a few examples of new conveniences and safety systems that will compensate for driver errors or omissions.

It appears that the backup cameras are considered useful but I wonder if privacy concerns will lead to drivers who disconnect the vehicle to vehicle and infrastructure systems.

Is it wrong to have your vehicle do some of the thinking for you? What happens if the system makes the wrong choice? Do you owe it to fellow road users to keep all of these systems properly functional as the choice you make will affect others? How far should legislation go to require implementation and continued use of safety systems that think for or override a driver’s control over their vehicle?

Will we get to the place in my lifetime where our vehicles drive for us?

I’m not sure I want to climb in, tell my pickup where I want to go and then put my head in a book or do other non-driving related tasks while it takes me there. The human brain is still a better multi-purpose computer than is present in the best self driving car today, but it still makes it’s fair share of stupid decisions too. Where does the balance lie?

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of experience.

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