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Social Media and the Role of Technology in the Automobiles

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This Huffington Post article discusses the struggle between auto companies and government regulators over the safety of driving cars with increasingly complex entertainment capacities.  We saw this issue first hand last week when we visited UMTRI (University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute) and drove in the car simulator, which is often used to track eye movement and driver distractedness.  Most states have begun to institute laws making it illegal to text and drive or use the cell phone without Bluetooth capabilities.  Automobile manufacturers understand these risks and do want to make driving as safe as possible.  However, auto manufacturers are also for profit companies that must answer to the market and the shareholders, and because of the increasing demand by car consumers for technological integration, these companies must produce cars with touch screens, internet capabilities, and other features of the like.


The competing forces of auto safety and consumer demand are explained well by an executive of Tesla who said; “ ‘The value proposition of a car is fundamentally changing. Younger Americans who are developing earning potential now have much less fundamental interest in cars.  The totem of social acceptance is no longer personal mobility, it’s personal connectivity… it’s the smart phone. And so, you need to architect a new value propisition’ “.  The government recognizes the competing interests and understands at least in part its complexity.  For these reasons, the government has begun creating rules and lists of necessary safety tactics to coexist with increasing technology in automobiles.  However, the rules are currently only a suggestion that companies can voluntarily abide by, but are not legally obliged to follow.  Law suits and litigation remain forces driving companies to ensure that technological advancements do not distract drivers and create an unsafe environment on the road.  However, as we have learned during this course, the process of taking a car from sketch to mass production takes 5 to 7 years, and because of this the government cannot be too swift with its regulations.