The ethics of car design

1y ago


By now, you’ve probably become aware of the ethical dilemmas that have come about with autonomous cars, but have you considered that there may be an ethical code to abide by in the design of the cars of today? This is something that has dawned on me somewhat recently, and it’s something that cannot be determined in one short article.

I think that the designers of cars have an ethical obligation to do a good job designing the vehicle, not because the owner has spent many thousands of dollars or pounds or euros on the vehicle, but because design is most important in case of a crash. Allow me to elaborate.

In the state of New York, there is a law that is hardly abided by that states that one must put one’s hazard lights on as he or she is braking very hard. To put this into context, if the person in front of you on the highway is stopping short, he or she should be putting his or her hazards on. This is used to communicate the severity at which braking will occur. This must happen instantaneously, which should lead one to think that the hazard button should be in reach of the driver in an obvious location. That isn’t the case on the 2016 Honda Civic that I reviewed though, amongst other vehicles. Unless you’re too tall for the vehicle to begin with, it’s completely out of arm’s reach. That’s not very helpful at all.

Perhaps this law’s lack of ubiquity could serve as an excuse, but more common problems can exist in the most modern of vehicles. What if you’re about to crash and you need to pull the handbrake? That same Civic has an electronic one, so best of luck. While we can buy whatever car we choose, are some of the choices we are faced with more of a dilemma than originally anticipated?

Just because something looks good doesn’t mean it’s functional. If that lack of functionality comes to life in a situation that might end in death, who’s to blame? Legally, that’s the driver almost every time, but look beyond the law. You might conclude that the professionals should have had that one worked out by now. As cars become more and more complex, a focus on simplicity is an absolute must for the driver, not just to make him or her happy, but to keep the driver alive.

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Comments (2)
  • This is a really good short article, made me think of the whole question of form over function/safety.🤔


    1 year ago


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