We once owned a yellow Volvo station wagon, 245 series to be exact. It was a 1977 model and we even personalized the license plate to read “ITZ A 77.” We were very proud of our first automobile purchase as a married couple and it also became the first car our daughter drove when she was in high school. It was a very vintage model by then and barely survived until her graduation in 2000. Let’s just say we like to get our money’s worth and our daughter was just too embarrassed to drive our new 1998 VW Cabrio – too flashy?
But now technology is changing the automotive world. Volvo seems to be taking the lead. They have sounded the death knell of the internal combustion engine, saying that all the models it will introduce starring in 2019 will be either hybrid or powered solely by batteries. The decision is the boldest commitment by any major car company to technologies that represent a small share of the total vehicle market but are increasingly viewed as essential to combating climate change and urban pollution. Unfortunately, U.S. automakers have continued to churn out S.U.V.s and pickup trucks, whose sales have surged because of relatively low fuel prices.
Maybe so-called President Trump can do something about all this? But I forgot: he doesn’t believe that climate change is really happening at all. He is also too busy looking for international enemies wherever they may be?
Maybe this is really the answer: just take the steering well away from the human driver and our roads will be safer. Now you will be free to text your heart away on any mobile device and not worry about your safety or the safety of others in their cars or walking the streets – you won’t be driving the car! Google has formed a coalition with Ford in trying to make this all technologically and legally possible. Volvo has also joined this group as well as ride-sharing firms Lyft and Uber. They call themselves th Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets. But I am not quite sure how Lyft and Uber fit into this self-driving initiative. Do they just send out driverless cars when you call them for a ride?
I still think I will miss seeing a “flesh and blood” person sitting behind the steering wheel when I ask Uber to send a car to help me get somewhere. But maybe I am overreacting. You’ve got to trust the technology after all. Right! Experts have already testified before the U.S. Congress stating that ninety percent of vehicle accidents every year (32,625 deaths in 2014) were the result of decisions made by drivers at the wheel – and self-driving technology has the potential to prevent “at least” some of those accidents.
So I am grateful that self-driving cars can be instrumental in reducing the number of fatalities on American roads. But I guess I still have to keep an eye open for those with human beings behind the wheels!