THE ETHICS OF CAR DESIGN

The battle between form and function meets morality.

Perhaps you’ve become aware of the ethical dilemmas that have come about with autonomous cars, such as who should be saved in the event of a crash, but have you considered that there may be an ethical code to abide by in the design of the cars we drive today?

Photo by Nicolai Berntsen on Unsplash

I believe that the designers of cars have an ethical obligation to do a genuinely thorough job designing a vehicle, not because the owner has spent many thousands of dollars or pounds or euros on the vehicle, but because design is more important in a potential crash than in any other moment — right when your life is on the line.

In the state of New York, there is a law that hardly anyone abides by that states that one must put their 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, their hazards should be clearly visible to communicate the severity at which braking will occur.

Activating the hazard lights must happen nearly 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 had though. 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. It also carries an obvious implication. Those hazard lights aren’t going on.

Photo by Freddy G on Unsplash

Perhaps this law’s lack of ubiquity could serve as an excuse to automotive manufacturers, 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. To be frank, buying a car with a manual handbrake is almost as common as a car with a manual gearbox today. When it comes to choosing your daily method of transportation, perhaps some of the choices we are faced with are more of a dilemma than originally anticipated.

Just because something looks good doesn’t mean it has functionality, which sounds obvious in an article but is not often put into practice by customers at dealerships.

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 (human factors engineers) 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.

Photo by Cam Bradford on Unsplash

Since the release of the polarizing Tesla Cybertruck, car design is under a spotlight from the general public that it hasn’t seen for quite some time. Radical designs like the Cybertruck are much more reminiscent of those from the 1980’s. Today, the roads have become more densely populated with cars, crossovers, and SUV’s that we wouldn’t be able to tell apart if there wasn’t any branding on them.

Now is the time to embrace a shift in design focus from aesthetics to usability. Usability is the reason your phone is intuitively functional. There’s no reason your car shouldn’t be the same, especially when your life depends on it.

Creator. Project Minded. Husband. NY Islanders fan. Music Producer. Auto Enthusiast. Bargain Hunter. Writer. https://twitter.com/Kyle_Duffy_

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