Since the advent of the automobile, vehicle safety has primarily been reactive. That is, systems were designed to prevent injury in case of an accident.
Take the introduction of the three-point seat belt by Volvo in 1959. It was put there to limit bodily injury in the event of a collision, not to stop one.
Automotive safety in the era of mobility will be much different, however. In the future, cars will use artificial intelligence to prevent cars from ever entering unsafe conditions to begin with.
To that end, this week Volvo announced it would begin installing sensors and interior cameras in its cars — beginning in the early 2020s — that will monitor for distracted and intoxicated drivers.
When the Volvo car senses a driver is intoxicated or distracted, such as if the driver does not make any steering inputs for an extended period of time or the driver is excessively swerving, the car will prompt the driver with warning signals. If the driver fails to appropriately respond, the vehicle will take action in order to avoid an accident. This involves slowing or even stopping the vehicle.
Volvo’s CEO, Hakan Samuelsson, sees future safety intervention going further than that, though. Speaking with Motor Authority, Samuelsson envisions Volvo cars being able to limit vehicle speed below the posted speed limit. The car would make the calculation based upon road design and conditions.
It’s easy to extrapolate that, based upon Samuelsson’s contentions, cars — not human drivers or even legislators — will be the arbiters of what is safe. And these calculations will be based upon data, not gut instinct.
This lack of driving freedom or choice might irk some. However, it’s important to remember that as we move toward a mobility-based future, that ease, efficiency, and safety will be paramount. For better or worse, your need for speed has no place in the future of mobility.
After all, your vehicle speed could endanger the life of someone else. And preserving and protecting their life outweighs your right to operate your car at unsafe speed.