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An Image Of Our Driving Future

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

The DriveWrite Archives

An Image Of Our Driving Future

Geoff Maxted
November 24, 2013

Nav Screen Call
It’s incredible just how quickly the world of cars changes. It seems like only yesterday that we marvelled at the CD player or gasped as ABS saved our bacon. Now, ABS has evolved into a whole raft of safety gizmos known only by their initials. The demise of the CD player is imminent as we witness the rise of total connectivity.

Technology has pretty much mastered the internal combustion engine as car manufacturers squeeze more and more performance and economy out of ever decreasing cubic inches. So why gripe? Why complain? It’s all good surely? Well, no.

In 1975 or thereabouts, an imaging engineer called Steven Sasson developed what was essentially the first working digital camera. It used the then-new solid-state CCD image sensor chip. The camera weighed 3.6 kilos, recorded black and white images to tape, had a resolution of 0.01mp and took 23 seconds to capture its first image in December 1975. The rest is history. A scant thirty seven years later and there’s a new phone with a 41mp camera just on the market.

The snag is that despite this incredible discovery the general standard of photography has gone down markedly. People hold up images as prize exhibits when they wouldn’t have reached the also-ran stage in the darkrooms of the Twentieth Century. If you want to see terrible photography then just scan the social media sites. Any Joe can now call himself a photographer. What he doesn’t know is how photography works.

It’s the same with cars and driving. The latest models are pretty much impossible to work on without specialist equipment and training and more and more of the act of driving - that is operating machinery - is being taken out of our hands by technology and increasingly draconian rules.

We are being herded like sheep down the road to full auto-automation. IMHO the standard of driving is getting worse as a consequence. If people believe that their car will save them in an emergency they may well become less involved in the process of driving. Any motorist who prides himself on his technique and skill will not have failed to notice the number of people using distracting technology whilst on the move. We are used to seeing people on phones, but I’ve now seen a tablet in use (and not forgetting the Swindon woman in a battered Picasso who uses both hands to style her hair, presumably en route to work). Nevertheless, automotive technology marches forward whether it is needed or deirable or not.

So there’s the dilemma. On the one hand we have the inexorable rise of technology in cars. The consequence is that driving standards go down. Ultimately, we are going to need the technology to save us from ourselves. Or just buy a pre-2000 car and ignore the lot of them.

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