Note: This article is by Stephanie Balais of the University of Southern California, the winner of Shear Comfort’s Automotive Scholarship for the Fall 2015 school semester.
“Smart” Cars are the Smart Way to Go“Smart” Cars are the Smart Way to Go
When the first Model-T rolled out of Ford factory, it greatly revolutionized the way that we travel. Since then, we have been constantly improving this method of transportation through the introduction of four-wheel drive in 1945 and eventually the era of the electric car that we are currently in. Technology is seemingly exponentially growing, and we can use this as a tool to likewise continue to advance the automotive industry. With the rise of Siri in the iPhone, we are relying more on technology to do simple tasks with little to no effort on our part. Even now, there is progress in vehicles that are able to drive itself without the direction of a driver. In the next couple of years, the mass production of these “smart cars” will become a reality, and they will become as common in society as our beloved Siri.
The introduction of a “smart” car that can fully function without human intervention to our mainstream society has the potential to have many benefits. Firstly, by cutting out human error in driving, fewer accidents will occur. Accidents from drunk driving or texting while driving will become a thing of the past and many lives can be saved. Also, a smart car programmed to take the most efficient path possible to a destination saves greatly on time and gas. Self-driving cars are a part of a groundbreaking wave of the future much like the telephone was in the late 1800s.
Companies like Google, Mercedes-Benz, and Nissan have tested and unveiled cars that are autonomous for either a short or long period of time in the last couple of years. Working for companies like these with a start in this branch of the automotive industry already would be an ideal place to end up. But to get there, I plan on getting as much experience with mechanized systems first as possible. I am currently a member of University of Southern California’s AeroDesign Team, and though this team is geared for flight and automotive vehicles are limited to land, it is valuable learning how a contraption interacts with its environment and how to make it more efficient because of that. This is exactly the type of critical thinking mindset needed to work on a project such as the smart car. To design its different systems, one would have to determine how the car would react to certain stimuli from its surroundings and program the car to work with what it is given.
I am hoping that with increased involvement with AeroDesign Team, I can not only learn new useful skills, but also get closer to the automotive industry in general through the experiences I have. Getting an internship related to auto motives is one way I am planning on putting a foot through the door of the automotive industry and the innovation it is a part of. By gaining mechanical experience through school courses, engineering design team, and relevant internships, I hope to be a part of making “smart” cars a reality for the average consumer. The technologies for self-driving cars are already here, but they just need to be optimized for mass production and consumer use.