Hands-Free Innovation: Applications & Autonomous

In the last few years, consumers have seen an influx of devices, both stand-alone and standard in certain car models, built with the intention of making the road safer for all drivers. We’ve all viewed the commercials warning against the dangers of distracted driving and the results they can produce. However, with the introduction of self-driving cars on the horizon, the conversation to a complete hands-free driving experience is more prevalent than ever.

2017 Sportage SX Turbo App Display2017 Kia Sportage

Hands-Free Applications

Of course consumers welcome the introduction of technology that’s sole purpose is to eliminate the dangers often associated with distracted driving. Beyond that, it affords us small moments throughout the day to feel like Knight Rider when we have voice-command GPS built into our rides. (“Kip, plot the fastest route to Dairy Queen, we need some Blizzards ASAP”). Some of the most popular technologies in the hands-free arena include the Apple & Google integrations, park assist, headlights, gesture control, Wi-Fi, and navigation.

However, the usage of these systems can cause distractions. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the Voice-Activated Systems in the Chevy Equinox, Buick Lacrosse and Toyota 4Runner received the lowest distraction rankings in regards to, “mental distraction rankings when using voice-commands to make calls or change music while driving.” This includes the 2015 model-year vehicles. 

Toyota 4Runner2015 Toyota 4Runner

Autonomous Vehicles: The Future

Current versions of the semi-autonomous vehicles require at least a basic command to function or some level of passenger awareness to correct a maneuver (as we saw at the beginning of October when a self-driving Uber car drove the wrong way down a one way street and required the human passenger to take over control).

In a February 2016 article in Car and Driver regarding Semi-Autonomous Cars, they pitted the Tesla Model S, BMW 750i, Infiniti Q50S, and Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG against each other.  All of the vehicles did well with Cruise-Control Responsiveness, Lane Control at night, Lane-Change Abilities, and Parking Assistance. The Tesla was crowned winner, with the least amount of Lane-Control Interruptions.

Research on self-driving cars started in the 1980’s and the current goal of many brands is 2021.  In the meantime, it is about lowering cost, continuous technology development, and safety standards.

Volvo and Uber Join ForcesVolvo XC90 with integrated Uber autonomous driving technology

What does this mean to you?

These technologies offer the opportunity to simplify our lives and reshape the way we look at travel. Eliminating human-operated vehicles would completely change what it means to get into a vehicle, it would change what it feels like to roll through the streets of a city you don’t know, and has the potential to almost completely eradicate the stress associated with getting behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. By no means should automakers outright remove these features from their vehicles, but it is highly important that they take the time to realize and consider the double-edged nature of technology that, as of now, simply can’t guarantee a 100% success rate. At the end of the day, the real question to be asked is: What’s more important? Being the first to get this technology to the market, or being the first to get it right?

What hands-free features are most exciting to you? Let us know your thoughts in comments below!