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Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014

Safety feature may be a bad idea

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

How much longer will it be before our vehicles drive us instead of the other way around?

Some Nissans, primarily commercial vehicles, will soon come with a gas pedal which automatically lifts if a collision is possible, reports the Associated Press. Take your foot off the pedal and the vehicle stops.

So what happens if a car behind you slams into you because of your sudden stop?

"It is almost like riding a horse, the way the rider can have a dialogue with the horse," Nissan Senior Manager Yousuke Akatsu told the Associated Press, which said the idea was to make man and machine work together like man and animal.

Hmmmm. People are regularly thrown from horses. Suppose the computerized, sensorized car gets a mind of its own and throws out the driver?

And then, there are runaway horses...

The self-driving car concept has been debated for some time in auto enthusiast magazines. Most of the writers, who are focused toward their enviable jobs of testing high-performance cars on race tracks, prefer doing it themselves. I'd tend to agree.

I'm not quite ready to trust others' lives -- or my own -- to a computerized vehicle when human variables will be involved for years to come. Even if the self-driving car is perfected, it'll be a generation or more before everyone has them and all vehicles can interact. Look for cars or trucks from the 1980s next time you're on the road. They'll be few and far between.

If anything needs to be added to vehicles, I'd nominate alcohol sensors which would prevent the ignition from working.

They're sometimes placed in vehicles now on judges' or lawyers' orders. But there's a major problem to making them mandatory: Big Auto would probably use them as an excuse to raise vehicle prices far out of proportion to actual production costs.

Leaving a legacy: Speaking of auto prices, Detroit needs to do something quickly about "legacy costs" - pensions and health insurance for retirees - which it claims is driving up new vehicle prices.

Yet GM, Ford and Chrysler don't need to abandon the assembly line workers who kept them alive through the years.

Obviously a dilemma exists.

Manufacturers made those deals, so they bear responsibility to carry them out. If you make a deal, you stick to it. That's how honest people and business executives function.

Detroit seems to be insinuating that retirees' costs should be eliminated or cut. You don't take elderly, possibly vulnerable people, and leave them with no support after previous promises otherwise.

And this deal hits home locally, Several times a year we see obituaries of people that returned here to retire after working in the Northern auto industry most of their lives. We also have Northerners who joined us from Michigan to work for Saturn.

Traffic troubles: Since we're talking cars, we can't forget the heavy traffic on North Main Street. Granted, people in Nashville and Murfreesboro would likely shake their heads in glee at what Shelbyville calls "traffic." Compare the North Main and Colloredo Boulevard intersection with Northwest Broad Street and Memorial Boulevard in Murfreesboro, where they sit much longer.

But too many people on North Main are darting out in front of oncoming traffic after waiting several minutes to get out.

I never thought I'd advocate traffic lights, but North Main at Hickory Drive, which is becoming a major traffic artery, needs one immediately. One wouldn't hurt at the North Main-Scotland Heights intersection, although I'm not sure it's not too close to Colloredo Boulevard.

Sooner or later someone's going to get killed trying to get onto North Main. If the right people see the light, lives can be saved.

Contact David Melson at dmelson@t-g.com .

David Melson
On the Loose