Auto-cars of the future will save lives

Sep 23, 2012, 2:53 PM | Updated: 2:53 pm

Someone I was visiting today said to me, “Be careful leaving the driveway, it’s hard to see oncoming cars.”

I answered automatically that my Ford Fusion warns me of other cars behind me in either direction and it has a camera that opens in my rear view mirror as I back up. As I drove away, I hoped that I did not sound pretentious as I was not trying to be. Lots of folks have Fords.

Then I thought, “My car has skid control, side view mirrors that warn of cars that are too close when I change lanes, a brake force distribution feature, a low tire pressure monitor, anti-lock brakes, eight air bags (front and rear) and Sync, which gives me driving directions and warns of traffic jams ahead and in a crash calls 911 and relays my location. Other cars parallel park themselves, have night vision windshields, move their headlights with the change in your direction, have warning systems if you fall out of lane or if you might be sleeping at the wheel, brake your car if you are too close to another or if there is an impending accident or if you are using cruise control incorrectly.”

Actually the list goes on and these computer, laser, optical, GPS and radar-guided systems are, as in my car’s case, not confined to upper end vehicles.

So, you might ask, what the heck does this have to do with health care? Well, lives are lost or changed unalterably in motor vehicles every day. I love cars, but they are dangerous in the hands of humans.

I saw a 90-year-old today who feels that he is a good and safe driver. His son disagrees and would like me to have his driver’s license removed before he kills himself and/or others. I am sure that you read about the 100-year-old in California who recently backed up into 11 children! What about the 16-year-old at the high school my son once attended who lost her life and dismembered her head from her body as she reached for a fallen cell phone while driving on the highway?

I have had an entire family of four die when their vehicle, stopped at a red light, was hit by a drunk driver. I would be remiss if I left out the daily fatal motorcycle accident during traffic hours somewhere in metro Phoenix. Lest it not be obvious, countless others survive but are left with varying degrees of pain and suffering that often change the remainder of their lives. While I love the sound of a V-8 (not that I could afford the gas) and I am not going to lie, I get a buzz putting the pedal to the metal, it is like playing with fire.

We have an aging America and while many seniors might be willing to give up their driving because of fading faculties, to do so leaves them in lockup in their homes or assisted living facilities, etc., because public transportation in many cities (Phoenix is a prime example) is lousy and there is nothing like a car to give one a feeling of independence. Even the few programs that we have for seniors (Dial-a-Ride, etc.) do not offer the freedom to go to the movies, go shopping or visit a friend as easily as having your own auto.

Did you have your first kiss in the front of a ’55 Chevy? Did you take your board to Onofre with a hot guy or girl and catch a wave together? OK, I didn’t either, but lots of kids have had part of their time growing up while in a car. Just seeing a Mustang, Camaro or Corvette makes kids, boomers like me and lots of “old timers” salivate with memories of the romance most have with cars!

We are riding the edge of a wave to change cars. Increased safety and fuel economy can create an important lead in technology if our impotent Congress and more talk-than-do presidents can pull together and create a lot of jobs and generate money. What I am talking about will take some getting used to but I am in full support. The end game is to have cars in, say 20 to 30 years, that drive themselves!

This is not a pipe dream folks. Google has already demonstrated that it can happen faster than you think. There will be no need for wires in the ground. In fact, cars may be able to talk to each other: “Hey cute blue Toyota, you go to the left and I will go to the right in .1 seconds and we will avoid smacking each other and getting the bozos who are driving like jerks killed.”

There are issues. What will bank robbers do? Oh wait, they are already hacking banks’ servers and transferring funds to the South Pacific! They do not need getaway cars.

You can be tracked, so what about privacy? “Where were you last night?” You will not be able to answer that you were at work when in reality you took your auto-drive car and went boozing it up at the bar with the guys.

I doubt that you will need a driver’s license — maybe an ID but not a license. You can be young or old and use the car safely! You can decide on where and when you want to travel. You can play poker, sleep, listen to great music or work on the net while getting safely to your destination.

This is going to happen and it is happening right now. Just look at the features I mentioned that are already in use. The trick is how to take the romance of the V-8 and channel it to new kind of vehicle.

I contend that we are well on the road by building fully-automatic cars in bits and pieces each time you get a new car. This concept will grow on you because it will not be simply stripped away from one day to the next. Some cars, like electric ones, even have sound equipment to replicate the engine noise we love. For me, the big selling points are:

• Lives saved.
• Quality of life preserved.
• More time to play or work while traveling and/or going to work.
• Getting to wherever you are going faster because cars can travel fast and closer to each other.
• As I age, I will be able to remain independent.
• Fuel saved because cars can safely draft behind others and go at ideal speeds to conserve any form of energy.
• I will not have to spend all day looking for a parking spot in L.A. when I go to visit my daughter.
• No more photo radar tickets!

Just as the days of gasoline cars are numbered, V-8’s are almost extinct, jump seats are gone and Oldsmobiles are a thing of the past (as they should be). Cars will, with each new model year, take more control of driving and do their best to save lives, maybe yours or maybe mine.

That is where the rubber is meeting the road!

Dr. Benjamin

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Auto-cars of the future will save lives