By: Brenda J. Trainor
A common theme well-known to readers of this column is how technology has pretty much permeated all aspects of our lives, and how much information technologies are a driving force for our economy and lifestyles. And as anyone in the Los Angeles area knows, transportation is integral to our lifestyle. Here, we are known as a commuter culture, we expect to spend lots of time in our cars, and many don't scoff at driving ninety-minutes to get to work, or go to a concert, or visit friends. We are a driving culture with world- famous freeways, and technology gives us new options to facilitate our transportation choices. And even when we’re not commuting, we are still likely to be going somewhere either for leisurely hikes or bike trips, or traveling out-of-town for business or pleasure.
Let’s examine the many ways technology has impacted our transportation choices:
Getting Ready to Go: Before we even get into our cars, there are many new technology solutions to help us plan our trip. The highways themselves are “smart:” many millions of dollars of California and federal tax dollars have been invested over the years to build and maintain advanced highway systems that monitor traffic flow and provide live video images so we can see on our tv’s or smart phones how crowded our chosen route might be. It is because of these systems that we can use our smart phones and automotive GPS systems to connect to Google Maps Traffic and other apps like Waze to keep instantly up to date on road conditions. Recently, LA’s ABC station, KABC, Ch. 7, introduced a new app for smart phones that features an alarm clock that wakes you up with links to the morning’s news headlines and your chosen traffic route. This is a handy accompaniment to the regular tv morning newscast – which, like most morning news shows features frequent traffic updates as a useful, prominent feature. Without radio, tv, and these intelligent traffic systems, it would be far more difficult to figure out how to avoid congestion – or at least warn you of unusual congestion that might be different from the daily grind you’re used to.
Inside Our Cars: Technology has significantly impacted our habits once we get inside our cars. Computer chips and electronic systems in autos have greatly altered how our cars function. In addition to making the cars work and get diagnosed better – mechanics will tell you they must be computer literate as well as mechanically skilled to analyze engines these days – we expect our cars to be compatible with our personal electronics that we bring with us. On-board computer systems regulate the functions of the engine and all the car’s indicator systems, and for diagnostic systems, mechanics frequently use satellite-enabled diagnostic connections to download software solutions to your car’s internet-enabled intelligence.
And of course, manufacturers have now made their machines accommodate our expectations for our personal information technologies and our desires for constant cell-phone and internet access. Car radios these days all have MP3 input jacks; and cars have factory-built-in options to have systems to accommodate hands-free phone use. Drivers have many choices to avoid breaking the law and holding a phone to their head: you can use a cord, or a device to connect to your car radio as a phone speaker, or you can simply use your speaker phone, or you may even have a car equipped with on-board Bluetooth technology to automatically connect your phone to your car’s speakers and control the calls with voice recognition technology and thumb-control buttons on your steering wheel. There are many options for the techie driver – and breaking the law with one-handed driving is NOT one of them.
And it must be obvious, you can NEVER TEXT WHILE DRIVING, unless you have a reliable passenger to take your dictation, or an iPhone with Siri to whom you can dicate a message and she’ll even send it for you. Yes, when used properly, technology can be used to make us safer: even services like On-Star with its satellite-enabled location systems can be used to detect crashes, or contact emergency services in cases of an accident. And of course, many drivers would be lost if they did not have access to their smart phone or dashboard GPS screens with a pleasant (?!) voice telling us where to go. And we’re not far off from driving like a modern jet pilots with systems I expect to soon see in more of our cars that project text or images on our windshields to help “keep our eyes on the road and our hands on the wheel” when using our technologies.
Enjoy your trips safely, with smart choices of mobile technology.
Brenda J. Trainor
Frontier Trail, Inc.
Monrovia, CA 91017