COMMENTARY | Call me old-fashioned, but the more I think about the concept cars of the future, the more I seem to embrace the past and present. Being a big fan of the newest technology, I was initially blown away by the potential of the cars of the future. Until I let it all sink in, then I had a total change of heart.
For an example, let’s take a look at the GM EN-V concept car. Luckily, this car is not even intended to hit the market until 2030, giving us plenty of time to brace ourselves. There are several things about this vehicle that I was excited about at first that over time I have grown weary about.
The first, and most obvious, red flag of the EN-V is the fact that it is a two-wheeled vehicle. Not like a motorcycle, with front and back tires, but like a Segway, with side by side tires. It uses state-of-the-art technology to balance itself on only two tires. Call me crazy, but that is just an accident waiting to happen. All may be well for a while, but when some computer chip goes out that you don’t even know exists, that thing is going to crash.
In a good old four-wheel vehicle if the entire thing shuts down on you, at least you are still naturally balanced on the ground and can cruise to a slow stop safely.
Next is the EN-V’s ability to use cameras and sonar to detect objects before you crash into them. This is a great idea to safe lives of pedestrians crossing the street. But over time it is going to spoil drivers, making them expect the car to do the work for them. People don’t pay enough attention already when they are driving, we don’t need to pour fuel on the fire.
If you are driving along and you expect your car to stop because there are children playing in the street and your computer shorts out, well, that’s just a tragedy waiting to happen. I think we need to work on ways to get drivers to start paying more attention to the road, not less.
These vehicles also have built-in networking capabilities, so they will communicate with the cars around them. So if you fall in line with other EN-Vs, they will drive together like a train. Great idea for a science fiction movie, but in real life it just does not seem practical.
Basically for me it’s a question of trusting a computer to never malfunction. Given the track record of any computer I have ever owned, they have a lot of work to do by 2030 before they gain my trust.
I think I will just keep things simple, and keep driving a four-wheeled car without any computer controlling it for me.