Sudhir Matai thinks that modern cars are too comfortable and we can use that for a good cause.
Modern cars are too comfortable. It seems like an odd take, but stay with me here. I know this because I drive many examples of the modern automobile from most manufacturers. Think about it for a second. Modern cars feature seats that are soft and ergonomically shaped as well as adjustable for all shapes and sizes. Suspensions are tuned for comfort while engine, tyre and wind noise have all been whittled down to the bare minimum.
In most modern cars you also have a smorgasbord of convenience items that make time in the cabin pleasurable. We can listen to our favourite tunes in a cabin where you choose the exact air-temp you want, sometimes to half a degree Celsius (I am not sure who thought that was needed). As you progress up the price scale you can choose the temp on either side of the cabin, spend even more and occupants in each quadrant can set their own cabin conditions (though I’ve never quite worked out where the boundaries are).
New-ish cars allow you to connect your mobile device so you can take calls while driving. Even newer models allow you to listen to text messages, and reply by voice command, as well as listen to your favourite podcast or YouTube channel. In fact, the latest human machine interfaces (HMI) can be controlled by voice commands or simple gestures. Real-time satellite navigation, road congestion and concierge services are now a reality as well.
Oh, going back to the seats for a moment. High-end models offer seat heating and, in many cases, cooling as well. When you get to the really premium stuff you even get a massage function; I kid you not. All of this means that, for many people, the cars we drive/own are more comfortable and high-tech than the houses we live in. I have spent more hours than I care to admit sitting in my driveway listening to music on a car’s premium hifi while getting a back massage. But what if we could use this tech to alter drivers’ behaviour?
Automakers are already using some systems to keep drivers in check. Speed limiters and driver assistance, such as radar-based cruise control and self-correcting steering, are just some examples. But I think we need to ratchet this up a few steps.
If traffic lights turn green and you’ve spent a few seconds too long to pull away, your aircon/heater should stop functioning for the next ten minutes; I bet that will increase awareness pretty quickly. If you are hogging the fast lane, with no cars ahead or to the left, the audio system/Bluetooth connection (whichever you’re using) should cut your call or stop playing music for 30 minutes. Take a turn without using an indicator and your power steering should cease to function until the next time you’ve parked. Using your mobile phone without a hands-free kit should activate your windscreen wipers and washers running at full speed until you end the call. If you are travelling at 30 percent below the speed limit on any road the driver’s seat should start to slide forward, causing your foot to apply more pressure to the gas pedal.
These are just a few examples, off the top of my head, where we can use modern-tech used to influence and train drivers. I am sure there are loads others. By using existing systems in these ways, I believe we can change the behaviour of modern motorists for the better. What do you think?