While smart cars that can communicate and dial into command centres, provide directions or even blast off back to 1985 were mere concepts 30 to 40 years ago, today automakers have made tech-savvy cars a reality. Cars have become computers on wheels, and there’s seemingly no end to the features that many vehicles are sporting. However, are these connections truly a boon to drivers or a safety bust?
Cars have become computers on wheels, and there’s seemingly no end to the features that many vehicles are sporting. However, are these connections truly a boon to drivers or a safety bust?
Proponents of connected cars say safety features embedded in the vehicles, such as GM’s On-Star platform and similar services for other brands, make a strong case for connected cars. These systems can immediately alert for emergency assistance if there is an accident or if a passenger is unresponsive. The future of other safety features includes vehicles that can sense obstacles in the environment and make modifications to GPS routes based on accidents or road blocks, passing that information on to other cars to create safer conditions.
Service centres can use connected cars to digitally diagnose problems and possibly reduce more invasive mechanical measures. Insurance companies can use data pulled from driving habits to determine rates based on safe driving behaviors. Manufacturers can track data such as how optimally a person has driven to develop more efficient vehicles.
Another benefit of smart cars is infotainment, which truly takes internet use mobile in every sense of the word. Apps learn drivers’ preferences and can fine tune music, news and other entertainment options to make trips even more enjoyable.
One of the biggest arguments against connected cars is the increased level of distraction. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that, in 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. A smart car is essentially a smartphone on wheels, which may prompt greater levels of distraction.
Another area of concern is security. As cars become more connected to the internet, they can become greater targets for hackers. Researchers have already shown how hackers can take control of the vehicle, forcing them to brake or steer elsewhere. There’s also the opportunity for people to be digitally spied on or for criminals to gain other personal information through driving habits.
It seems as though connected cars are here to stay, and drivers must weigh the pros and cons of having this technology at their fingertips when behind the wheel.