Every now and then I see articles about the "future of the car", like this one. I am trying to figure out what is so smart about the mindset of the people who think these things up. Leaving comfort, speed, entertainment, information, fuel efficiency and environmental impact aside and just focusing on safety, what are these "futurists" thinking?
They have two general ways of thinking about this. The first is: make the car bigger, heavier and built of stronger metarials so that it can withstand crashes and keep you alive. The obvious result is an evolutionary arms-race between Hummer, next years "Uber-Hummer", the 2008 "Super-Hummer", 2009 "Ultra-Hummer" and 2010 "Hyper-Hummer". What's next - a Sherman tank? More and more violent vehicles, lulling their owners into a false sense of safety, promoting their beligerent aggression, and killing more and more people unlucky enough to be able to afford (or do not want in principle to own) the latest behemoth.
The second strategy is to employ electronics to replace driving skills. You are reading this, thus you have some experience with computers - do you really want them to be in charge of life-and-death decisions? Is it possible for a computer to be able to correctly respond to every possible situation - out of an infinite number of possibilities - that can arise in traffic? I didn't think so....
When I think of an ideally safe car, I think of driving something embedded inside bubble-wrap packaging, with styrofoam peanuts. In case of a crash I want an air-bag to deploy not in my face, but between the two vehicles (or the car and the tree), amortizing the impact and gently bouncing back.
Imagine a highway on which all the cars have, on the outside, the consistency of marshmallows. The worst thing that can happen if you bump into somebody is that you get a finger raised at you. Doesn't that sound saner?