Safety Features that Frighten Me

Honda has a new safety package on some of their cars. The ads go something like, “Sooner or later you’ll be driving when you’re on the verge of falling asleep. Sooner or later you’ll make a sudden swerve across several lanes of traffic. Sooner or later you’ll be driving and not watching where you’re going. Our car has technology to make it safer to do those things! Yay Honda!”

Wait… what?

Already there are people out there, who, when the moment comes to make a life-and-death decision, will, because of this technology, be more inclined to choose death. Death for themselves and for those around them. Death for me, perhaps. Some of those people will choose death anyway, but now, with the assurance that their car is looking out for her, a teenage girl will veer across four lanes of traffic and be represented at her prom by a table with her photo on it, with candles and little mementos. Elsewhere, some guy is going to decide to cover an extra hundred miles while his wife sleeps in the passenger seat, confident that his car will wake him up, and he will leave his children orphaned.

This technology is part of a larger, encouraging trend towards cars that drive themselves, that plan ahead long before the desired exit, pull over when the human monitor is asleep, and talk to each other to warn of obstacles and negotiate safe passage. Steps like the ones Honda has introduced are valuable in reaching that goal.

But these intermediate steps? I don’t want them on the road with me.

3 thoughts on “Safety Features that Frighten Me

  1. My first car sort of had this feature: you could set a buzzer on the speedometer and get buzzed if you went faster than the set speed (this was a 1964 Buick LeSabre). It was meant as a speed warning, but because of the way I doze at the wheel it ended up being a WAKE UP ASSHOLE alarm.

    My second car, after I got out of college, did not have this feature. My first long trip, I fell asleep at the wheel and drove (at high speed, presumably) into a ditch; totaled the car and spent a lot of time in the hospital and in a storm trooper uniform.

    The lesson, I guess is that (a) it works, and (b) it’s very easy to rely too much on it.

    Now that I’m using navigation software on my iPad (Navigon) I sort of have this feature again: Navigon warns me if I’m going more than 20 mph above the speed limit. (Which, everywhere except Texas, means a warning if I’m going about 5mph over normal traffic flow.) I’ve been careful not to rely on this feature for wakefulness.

    • You know, I would be completely in favor of these features, if the drivers didn’t know they were there.

      “… everywhere except Texas…” Crazy how true that is.

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