Self-driving cars are coming; that’s very clear. They won’t predominate on the roads of even the richest countries in the near future, though; human-driven cars will carry on being the majority for quite awhile. But even in conventional cars, ever more and more tasks are being offloaded from the driver to the vehicle. For those still requiring driver input, there have been attempts at voice control, and there is work ongoing on the likes of gestural control in an attempt to reduce the baffling button farms on today’s dashboards.
Some tasks, though, have been left with the driver (or not, depending on the model and trim level of the vehicle). And feedback channels have been taken away that have traditionally spurred the driver to take an important action like turning on the headlamps. In this week’s in–depth report, I take an analytical look at an effort in Canada to deal with the problem of “phantom cars”: those driving at night with only DRLs, dark from the rear and sides. One of the three proposed solutions is correct.
The questions raised go beyond this one example in that one country. As vehicle automation becomes easier and less expensive, it becomes ever more important for us to look anew at the inertial assumptions of longstanding industry practice and regulations. When we fail to acknowledge and question our methods because “we’ve always done it this way”, we actively damage and undermine the effort toward zero traffic fatalities. Got thoughts on the matter? Send a note; we’re listening!
Daniel Stern, DVN Chief Editor