The progression in automotive technology over the last fifty years has certainly been beneficial and impressive - moving from carburetors to fuel injectors, enhancements in safety technology like ABS, traction control, stability control, electronic brake force distribution and of course, improvements in fuel efficiency and emissions. But lately, I feel like we may be going a little too far in our technological innovations, possibly at the expense of the "joy" of driving.
I know I'm not the only one who loves driving. Of course when I say "driving", I don't mean sitting in highway traffic at 5pm trying to get home from a long day! I'm talking about going on those long, summer drives cross country - or cross continent! So when I learn about new technology that will actually help us not drive our car at all - I just don't get that excited. For instance, I came across this great article on Automatic Parallel Parking - a feature offered in many vehicles today. The technology will allow the vehicle to park itself, the driver needing only to line up the vehicle and put the car in reverse. The technology is not that new but it is now being offered in less expensive vehicles so that everyone is able to afford it.
Not long ago, being able to drive through the streets of downtown, find that perfect spot and park it at a perfect ratio between the car in front of you, the curb and the car behind you was a skill and something to brag about. Now with automatic parking there is no thinking or skill involved. But what happens when you are travelling in a rental car without this feature? You'll probably spend half an hour trying to line up your vehicle, only to find that you've oversteered and have to drive out and try yet again.
Another example of this new wave of Passive Driving technology is outlined in this recent Globe and Mail article on Google and their Driverless car. The technology works by using multiple sensors and Google maps. It follows posted speed limits and is able to anticipate traffic signals. I guess I can understand how convenient it would be to be able to check my emails, read the latest news updates all while I'm going into work in the privacy of my own vehicle, listening to my favourite radio station. However, I don't think that I would be able to get used to this - I would probably be concentrating so hard not to touch the pedals or the steering wheel that it would not be as relaxing as it was intended to be!
Although I am excited about all of the new up and coming technology, I hope there are not too many innovations that make drivers and the art of driving obsolete - otherwise we are just passengers along for the ride, right? What do you think?
If you want to learn more about auto parking technology, you can visit HowStuffWorks.
You can also learn more about Google's driverless car technology here.
- Julie S.