Friday, September 23, 2011

Why Smart Cars Aren't A Good Idea

We've all seen those commercials that advertise stylish new cars with super advanced technology built-in. Now, you can get a car that watches your eyes to make sure you're not drifting away to sleep; it's like a built-in parent, to watch intently watch you drive and slap you on the wrist every time your eyes close for a second too long. The car will even be able to help you stay in your lane and even park your car! Sweet! What's the problem with that?

What? Our sentient overlords have nothing to do with this article! 

The thing about smart cars, is that they're basically cars with computers built-in to help you do tasks easier. Other than how great computers can be, we have to admit, they tend to get viruses and spyware. On your computer however, all you need to do is get some anti-virus software along with occasional re-formatting every few years or so to keep your computer running at peak performance. But what if your car got a virus? What if someone programmed a virus to directly conflict with car operations with the intentions of injury?

But Norman, that's impossible! There are very and smart dedicated people building those car computers, they won't let something like that happen right? So are the people at Microsoft and Apple. People always find ways to get passed the thousands of security features created by developers; an entire computer security sector has grown out of reported millions of people that contract some type of virus, trojan, or spyware on their computer.

The thing about your computer at home is, your computer isn't going to explode shrapnel everywhere and throw you a hundred miles into incoming traffic. With newer cars with larger control over car operations, you can unlock your car on a computer from miles away. What if instead of getting some prank emails from your neighbor's kid, you get your car hijacked in the middle of traffic from someone in Japan.

But how could the virus possibly get into the computer? It's not like car companies are trying to get streaming weather and music from the internet into the car or anything. Oh wait, they are. Even if the car companies find a way to make a car more secure than the Pentagon, all it takes is one bad website owner to not secure their site properly and suddenly you're driving through a crowd of kids in the mall.

Nothing a gift basket can't solve!

Ignoring security issues for a moment, thousands of people die from automobile related accidents every year. Wouldn't some of these security features somehow prevent drunk drivers from driving and help stop cars from speeding cars? In a technical sense, sure, why not? But wouldn't it be better to have smarter drivers, than smarter cars? Instead of re-designing a hammer for a under-qualified contractor that doesn't know the difference between a screwdriver and his hands, wouldn't it be better to simply keep those people out of the job?

What smart cars will essentially do is make everything easier, thus decreasing the logic behind learning how to parallel park. Why teach people not to drive 24523543 miles per hour, when we can make cars that simply slow them down if they're going too fast?  While it's still true that these smart cars can potentially save a few lives every years in even the most responsible drivers, is the payoff worth having even more sucky drivers populate the freeway?