Technology: Friend or Foe?

By Debbie Hersman

As I told members of the City Club of Cleveland Friday, It can be tempting to see technology as the answer to every problem. But there are always risks and tradeoffs to be understood and addressed.

Technology provides us with great vehicle safety benefits, such as anti-lock brakes, side-curtain air bags and electronic stability control. And on the way are lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems.

But what about technology that distracts vehicle operators — as we have seen in accident investigations? We know distractions are only going to grow as drivers check Facebook, book a dinner reservation and buy movie tickets, all while behind the wheel.

While technology presents problems, it can also provide the solutions. Consider the autonomous car. Last year, I rode in Google’s self-driving car as it negotiated a busy freeway — it avoided other vehicles, slowed and sped up with the flow of traffic, and when necessary, turned over control to the human driver. It was pretty remarkable to think what that car could mean for aging drivers, busy parents and the disabled.

Yes, we must invest in technology — but we must ensure that technology solves problems, and doesn’t create new ones.

2 thoughts on “Technology: Friend or Foe?”

  1. I feel like new safety features on cars have actually been making the roads more hazardous. People are driving faster and applying the brakes later because they are dependent on the fact that the car can stop itself. Or how about the drivers that whip in and out of traffic without using turn signals when there is barely enough room for them to slide into that spot, because cars warn you when someone is in your blind spot? Anymore I get freaked out driving, especially when I take long trips.

  2. As an avid motorcyclist I have a great interest on this topic. While the auto industry has designed a safer vehicle, the other technology on the market that was designed to improve our lives is making our lives more complicated. Communication devices that can keep us connected, booking reservations all while behind the wheel is convenient, but has made the roads a more difficult place for all of us at a faster rate than the auto makers safety technology can protect us.

    What is needed is more education and higher standards for anyone getting a drivers license initially (one that is similar to the MSF Basic Riders Couse- but geared to standard vehicles- showing what consequences are of distracted/ impaired driving and professional training). Stiffer penalties for existing drivers with poor performance with more accountability. The right to operate any vehicle should be earned. The responsiblity that one has when behind the wheel needs to be fully understood.

    Seems like every part of driving is being improved except driver skill levels (maybe respect, patience or courtesy is better used in place of skill levels)

    Thank you for your blog.

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