According to New York Times, NHTSA is investigating whether a recent update from Tesla that allows video games to be played on its center touchscreens while a car is in motion compromises safety. Shortly after Vince Patton of Oswego, Ont. Bought a Model 3 last summer, he saw a video on YouTube demonstrating how 3 video games can be played on his car’s touchscreen while driving. . âI thought it couldn’t be right,â he says.
He tried it out in a parking lot and was able to play a game of solitaire on his Model 3’s touchscreen while it was in motion. âI only did it for about five seconds and then I turned it off,â he says. âI am amazed. To me, it just seems inherently dangerous. Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which coordinates the state’s efforts to promote safe driving, told the New York Times, âIt’s a big concern if he’s playing in the driver’s view, that’s for sure. Tesla, as usual, refuses to respond to any press inquiries at any time on any subject. At this time, Tesla has taken no action to prevent video games from being played while a car is in motion. Is there a substantial difference between texting while driving and playing solitaire while driving?
A warning will be displayed on the touchscreen before the game starts and will read: “Solitaire is a game for everyone, but playing while the car is in motion is for passengers only.” A button asks for confirmation that the player is a passenger, but the driver can play just by pressing that button. The NHTSA has issued guidelines telling automakers that any in-car entertainment device should be designed so that the driver cannot use them “to perform side tasks that are inherently distracting while driving.”
Four years ago, after investigating a fatal autopilot crash, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended Tesla add an infrared camera to improve driver surveillance, but the company did not. âIt’s incredibly frustrating,â says Jennifer Homendy, president of the NTSB. “We’re trying to warn the public and say to Tesla, ‘Hey, you need to put on some protective measures. But they didn’t. In light of Tesla’s constant insistence that she goes out of her way to make her cars as safe as possible, her behavior in the real world calls into question Elon Musk having a pig’s face. This certainly seems to be the case with foreigners.
Driver inattention is deadly
Driver inattention is officially cited as the cause of around 10 percent of road deaths, said Steve Kiefer, a senior executive at General Motors who also heads a foundation dedicated to fighting distraction driving. He and other safety experts believe the real figure is much higher, as crash investigations often overlook distraction while citing other causes such as reckless driving. âI think the number is closer to 50 percent,â Mr. Kiefer said. The Kiefer Foundation is dedicated to his son, Mitchel, who was killed in 2016 when a distracted driver crashed his car into a Michigan freeway.
Preventing such distracted driving is one of the main reasons that semi-autonomous automatic driving assistance systems (ADAS) are appearing on more and more cars. Write for AutoblogByron Hurd says, âAdvanced driver assistance systems conspicuously give us less to actively monitor, effectively freeing our attention. But why?
âHuman behavior is the weakest link in automotive safety,â he writes. âHowever, car manufacturers train their semi-autonomous systems to behave more [like human drivers]. We are told one line but sell another. It seems odd that efforts are being made to make cars drive more like they are controlled by humans if humans are the weak link to begin with. Then he dwells on the heart of his argument:
The goal of automation may be to save lives, but its ulterior motive is to sell cars. We are fed on the fantasy of an interconnected world where cars are so good at doing automotive things that we have nothing to do but sit in awe of their abilities, and since we will have nothing to do with them. Another thing to do, we can skip our car rides tweeting how amazing all the features of our favorite brand are. It’s a marketer’s dream, not a driver’s utopia.
In the meantime, we are being force-fed with palliative technology that largely serves to further erode our already declining situational awareness. If the smartphone has taught us anything, it’s the rate at which we are becoming dependent on technology. Watch how quickly we have learned to forget things that we once considered critical information to have in an emergency. Most Americans under the age of 35 probably don’t know the phone numbers of their loved ones. Do you really think they have an incentive to learn the rules of the road if they are told their cars can do it for them?
This knowledge (along with the skills and reflexes perfected by applying this knowledge day to day) are most critical when the going goes wrong. By systematically dismantling the human component of the driving process, I truly believe we risk being literally bored to death.
We are a culture that demands constant stimulation. Why then are we in such a rush to numb ourselves to everything that is happening around us on the road? What’s the real benefit of delegating anything that might need our attention to a half-baked electronic nanny that will only further isolate us from information that might be life or death critical?
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that we’re doomed to an inefficient, device-dependent existence because we’ve moved away from crank starters and manual transmissions, but there are some obvious differences in performance. between those who are engaged with a task and those who only accomplish it.
That’s why I can support a system like GM’s Super Cruise (and similar offerings from other OEMs). Since he’s not busy pretending that he can actually do all the work better than a human being, his implementation may be more focused on improving the driving experience rather than attempting to automate it completely. You’ll feel less fatigue per mile driven, but you’ll still need to be careful enough to keep the system from shutting down. It is net positive.
Is Hurd right? Are we belittling the driving experience to the point where humans shouldn’t be allowed to drive a car at all? Will driving get so boring that we will require Transport Robots as a Service to take us everywhere so that we can spend all of our time on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok?
We’ve come a long way since the days when the whole family piled into the car for a Sunday ride and Dinah Shore encouraged Americans to see America in your Chevrolet. Are ADAS driver aids a blessing or a curse? In the next few years, we will probably find the answer to this question.
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