Smart Cars Take Intelligence To A New Level
Montlick & Associates Discusses How Smart Cars Take Intelligence To A New Level
Alphabet, the parent company of Google, owns another subsidiary known as Waymo. Alphabet's Waymo project is developing self-driving vehicles that supposedly make driving safer. Waymo claims that its vehicles will create an environment that protects occupants from the dangers of drunk driving, fatigued driving, aggressive driving, and distracted driving. In essence, Waymo's vehicles replace the human element of motoring. Until then, people will continue to die or suffer serious and catastrophic injuries on America's highways.
Waymo's newest development seems like something out of a video game or science fiction movie. According to a recent article, Waymo developed and patented a vehicle that can alter its form in a particular situation. The newest Waymo vehicle is held together with rods, cables, wires, and other conduits under tension. The tension rods can remain rigid if the car senses an imminent impact with a hard object like another vehicle or fixed object such as a pole or wall. Waymo's car will shape-shift if it senses impact with a softer object. Waymo's design purportedly allows the car to soften and become bubble-like if contact with a human is imminent.
Waymo's efforts to protect and preserve human life are admirable. In so far as it can be ascertained, this is the first vehicle design that takes the potential for hitting a person into consideration. The idea is a brilliant theory, but it does not take into account other factors. For example, the injuries a pedestrian suffers in a collision with a car are caused by two contacts. The first contact is with the vehicle. The next is when the person hits the ground or another object. Waymo does not explain how it can control the bounce a person might take off of the car after contact. Nor does it explain how the sensors can distinguish between hard and soft objects. Additionally, there is no discussion of whether the car will have the capacity to slow itself down upon sensing that there could be contact with a human. Slowing substantially at or before impact would be a significant factor in lessening the initial blow from the impact with the car and absorbing the person into the car to prevent bouncing.
There are other concerns as well. To make the car safe for pedestrians, there would need to be a mechanism to control where on the car the person hits. People suffer severe injuries from striking the windshield. Also, bodies could hit the engine compartment or become airborne after impact with the Waymo car. It is also logical to inquire as to the safety precautions Waymo built into the car to prevent it from erroneously "going soft" before an impact with a hard object. There is no room for error in that situation. To put it simply: there are too many factors which must be accounted for before Waymo or any other car manufacturer can claim that their vehicle can save pedestrians in a motor vehicle crash. All it really seems to be is a clever marketing ploy.
There are other automated precautions automotive manufacturers can implement that protect pedestrians while protecting the occupants of the vehicle as well. Brake-assist technology that stops the car before impact or slows the car to reduce the gravity of impact would be a significant improvement. Similarly, lane correction technology would serve to save more lives than making a car soften before impact with a pedestrian.
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