(Host) Commentator Ruth Page has been observing all the energy that car makers put into new models; and says they should re-direct their efforts toward energy efficiency.
(Page) We’ve been reading lately about the new electronic gadgets that will soon be available in cars at our local show-rooms. The story in a recent Newsweek pictured much of the hi-tech stuff, amusements for car travelers so they won’t get bored and wish we had trains.
Newsmagazines show how car manufacturers respond to the problem of drivers’ having to wait in traffic twice as long as they did 20 years ago (82 minutes now, about 40 in 1982). Car companies work with electronics techies, finding ways to keep driver and passengers happy during long waits. They turn the car interior into a living room with DVD, warm colors and scents, massage, and an automatic navigation system so you can’t get lost. In a few years you’ll have a coffee maker, popcorn machine, and trash compactor, too.
They don’t choose to battle the problem of serious car-traffic tie-ups, which might mean cutting down on the number and size of vehicles and vastly reducing pollution. They’d rather baby us into not caring how long we sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic, turning the air to poison while awaiting a chance to move a few feet.
In addition to having a fingerprint-recognition gadget so only approved people can start your car, its seat will automatically adjust to your needs. That includes stereo and climate control — no need to tire your hand pushing buttons before you start. There can be videos for the kids, videogame cubes, a tiny refrigerator, of course a navigation system and a comfy seat that cuddles up to you on sharp turns so you won’t slide around.
Such vehicles will be far out of reach for middle-income people. The rich shouldn’t need them; they can have chauffeurs. Some cars have a few special electronics already: There’s a $48,000 Mercedes with that hugging seat. There’s a $60,000 Infiniti that gives you a view of the road behind you when you shift into reverse. And a $67,000 Audi A8 (due next summer) providing finger-print recognition. When you touch the start button, your seat, stereo and climate control are automatically set for your needs.
Is it conceivable that automobile manufacturers can find ways to do all this, but can’t meet tougher emission standards because they’re costly? One fast, simple solution would be to make cars smaller – better mileage, shorter lines of cars. True, some manufacturers are experimenting with alternative fuel vehicles, a good step in the right direction. Maybe they should spend more cash figuring out ways to reduce the costs of such vehicles, before investing in what sound like back-to-the-womb technologies for the very wealthy.
This is Ruth Page in Burlington.