Volvo’s head of government affairs, Anders Eugensson, thinks cars should be more like horses: incapable of crashing into stuff.
The car of the future will be just like the farmer’s horse. The farmer can steer the horse and carriage but if he falls asleep the horse can still take him back home…. And if the farmer tries to steer the carriage against a tree or off a cliff, the horse will refuse.
Seems like logical inspiration for a car, right? Lots of farmers I know fall asleep in their carriages after trying to steer them off cliffs. Hmmm, maybe it’s a Swedish thing.
Anyway, the promise of Volvo “crash proof” cars goes back to at least 2008, when the company said it hoped to have the first wi-fi-, radar- and sonar-enabled vehicles on the road by 2020.
Reports from earlier this year say Volvo’s autonomous cars are still on track, with versions capable of driving themselves at speeds up to 31 miles per hour in showrooms by 2014. Completely “crash proof” vehicles are still planned for 2020.
But can cars ever be incapable of crashing into things? As long as they move at high speeds on roads with other high-speed boxes made of metal, color me skeptical.
Google has proven that driverless cars are not only feasible, but they work, at least in real-world tests. However, I’m still no closer to joining the driverless-car party or believing they will eliminate accidents. The basic idea is for the car to apply brakes or cut power when it senses it’s about to run into something. What it can’t take into account are the cars driven by humans, who might be even more likely to rear-end a quick-stopping driverless car.
Volvo’s view, of course, is based on the safety of its customers. Eugensson said, “Our vision is that no one is killed or injured in a new Volvo by 2020.”
It’s hard to argue with that, and I hope Volvo achieves its goal, but I’m not convinced autonomous cars are the way to get there.
Can there be such a thing as a “crash proof” car?