The ultimate selfie and safety - Who’s driving your car?

Posted: 04.14.15

Autonomous vehicles are coming. In a year or two, three max, autonomous cars will be operating on the highway, but probably not in city and residential streets. However, we won’t instantaneously have highways filled with autonomous cars.

About 100,000 cars are built each year, and there are more than 3 million cars on the road, so at that production rate it would take 30 years to replace all the cars. However, we can get our old jalopies to give us some of the benefits by using our smartphones. They won’t take over steering and breaking, but they can warn us if we’re approaching the car in front of us too fast, and wake us up if we’re getting drowsy. Photo credit

Apps like iOnRoad, Mobileye, PhantomAlert, Anti Sleep Pilot, and Augmented Driving use the phone’s cameras and other sensors to warn you about vehicles nearby, or people, as well as and how long you’ve been driving.

I think these apps could do more, such as monitor the temperature and noise level in the car, which can induce sleepiness. Temperature is tricky because the phone has to be out of your pocket to measure the ambient cold or heat. But, since one’s temperature drops during sleeping, maybe you could wear it too; all it has to do is detect a difference—the absolute temperature value doesn’t matter unless you’ve been in ice water for a while.

Photo credit: Transport FuturesAnd how about adding (yet) one more sensor to the array already in our phones— biochemical sensors that taste the carbon and moisture in the air? Think how helpful a carbon-monoxide sensor would be indoors in the wintertime. Every year people die from carbon-monoxide poisoning due to faulty heaters. It used to happen in cars, too, but it’s less frequent these days.

I’d also like an app that randomly calls me. My phone is paired with my car so I can do a hands-free call. But I’m not very good at it and have to fumble to find the right button to push on the steering wheel. And the latency always gives me a little panic attack wondering if I’ve pushed it in time, hard enough, or the right one—that crap would surely wake me up.

I once tried setting alarms every 15 minutes, but that just annoyed me. I should mention I have a-one-and-a-half hour drive to Silicon Valley, each way, on a nice highway where everyone drives at 80+ MPH (in a 65-MPH zone). Falling asleep in that crowd is a death sentence, and a perfect reason why I want my phone to tell me if I’m getting too close to the car in front of me.

But how about a second phone to look out the back window? I don’t want to get hit in the back either.

The newer cars will come with cameras all over and in them to look for such things, but as I said, it’s only the new cars, and I just bought one so I have to figure a way to make it more functional until I get rid of it. And I’m not alone in that regard. In fact, I represent the largest demographic. So the TAM on me is much larger than the TAM on new cars. Which, if you were looking for a new market, would the place to look. I gotta take a nap now, see ya.