Are you planning to buy a new car next year? You might want to wait until April. Next April, the internet of things will shift up a gear on the Irish roads. New cars will be equipped with a feature that uses GPS tracking to alert emergency services in the event of an accident. This should mean ambulances, police and fire services can get to the scene faster. Emergency services won’t have to depend on a shocked bystander or accident survivor to explain where the incident occurred; the car will tell them precisely where to go.
A severe enough impact to the car will trigger the system, so it is completely independent of humans. It can summon help instantly in the event of a single car crash in an isolated area, which could save lives.
People have generally embraced increased automation in cars. Only senior citizens remember the days of defrosting an icy windshield without those nifty little wires in the glass. And who isn’t chilled to the core at the thought of a dashboard full of gauges instead of warning lights? Yes, kids, back in the old days mechanics had to take your car’s engine apart to find the problem. There was no scanning this or chip that. There weren’t any glitchy warning lights that popped on for no reason either, but never mind that.
Children today have no understanding of literally rolling down car windows. Inserting a key into a car door lock is a strange and confusing image for them. Cameras help us reverse safely, and satnav guides us to new destinations. We are passionate about having the latest digital technology to blast our own personal soundtrack of favourite tunes on the road. And technology that lets us safely and legally talk on the phone while behind the wheel? Oh yes please. We love that.
But there is one area of automobile technology where many consumers refuse to tolerate any progress at all. While we delight in our dash cams and digital stereos, many of us cling passionately to one archaic manual function in our cars. While we are happy to let technology determine our route, we are damned if we will let it change gears.
In every area of life, we collectively realise that automation makes things easier and often safer. But no way will we take our hands off that gear stick. Anyone who drives an automatic car in Ireland has experienced the disdain of other motorists, the same other motorists who brag about every other automated, high tech feature of their manual transmission car. Why? Because no amount of technology can make us rational.
By Irene Hislop
By Rakky Curvelo