The Emotional Lives of Cars


Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

The future lies in smart technology, but the question of what that smart technology looks like, and will look like, when it comes to cars, is particularly interesting. Already technology has started to move in the direction of anticipating our needs, sometimes before we know what those needs are. Car technology that keeps us safe will have to go one step further - it will have to respond to our behaviour. We've already seen some technology of this sort in the cars we drive, like with sensors that tell you when you're crossing into another lane or coming too close to another car. In article for Fast Company, however, Mike Elgan suggests that the "real revolution is automotive empathy." Which is to say that the future of cars is likely going to involve more emotion than previously expected.

The need for this technology is compelling. While various new technologies can help us with external dangers, the most pressing dangers are often internal, or to be more blunt... us. As Elgan points out, "the biggest reason for this tech shift is safety - because the most dangerous thing about a car is the driver." The statistics back this up, with the U.S. Department of Transportation finding that 94% of crashes are linked to human choices. So what would an empathetic car look like? While they wouldn't actually have empathy (although imagining so is a fun exercise), they would have emotion and activity detection systems that would be able to read our nuanced behaviour and interactions, using cameras, microphones, and other technologies.

"Emotion and activity detection is being designed to alter or even override risky choices to save lives. They'll detect not only driver drunkenness, stress, confusion, distraction, or sleepiness; they'll also identify and pay attention to the interaction between people in the car, then use artificial intelligence to "understand" the context of human behavior [sic] in order to respond in a way that supports human life, health, and happiness."

This technology, as much as it feels like it belongs in the world of the Jetsons, could make a huge impact on driver safety. And, with technology evolving as quickly as it currently is, it might be here sooner than you think. The article in Fast Company provides a great deal more information on the emotional cars of the future and their practicalities. It's well worth the read.

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