New year, old news

Opinions_new year predictions

A pessimistic look towards 2015

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. January 6, 2015

Here’s to another new year—but let’s be honest, as much as things change, the next 365 days will probably contain some scenarios that will feels as though history is repeating itself. This is because numerous unresolved incidents, like lawsuits and wars, can just drag on and on. Other occurrences may seem spontaneous and random, but after the smoke clears, we’ll see that it’s much of the same.

I have high hopes for 2015, I think it’ll be a great one, but don’t be surprised if some of these scenarios occur without warning to derail our plans.

Death of a star: Each year we seem flabbergasted when we hear about tragic deaths of celebrities. It’s nothing new. Death is inevitable and stars burn out. Some might be aging legends, others are troubled individuals, and a few are just ill-fated tragedies.

At the start of 2014, none could have guessed that we’d lose Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Joan Rivers. Shirley Temple, Lauren Bacall, and Richard Attenborough were not that surprising, although the pain lingers still. By the end of 2015, we’ll be recuperating from another year of mourning.

Health crisis: In 2014 Ebola scared medical workers, border guards, and pretty much everybody else in the world. Every few years we get an epidemic scare. Here’s a brief list of diseases we’ve survived so far: H1N1 (swine flu), E. coli, H5N1 (avian influenza), Listeriosis, mad-cow disease, SARS, etc. With that in mind, let’s be ready for the next one. It’s bound to happen with so much filth in the world. Let’s trust in the warning systems and the institutions that protect us. Let’s make good health practices and laugh in the face of death one more time.

Aircraft tragedy: Since 9/11 and the disappearance of Malaysia Airline’s aircrafts, getting on an airplane is a risky and stressful experience. While flying still remains the safest method of travel over great distances, aircraft tragedies have become an international crisis whenever they occur. Tenerife, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, and Captain Sullenberger are all memorable stories that have made a significant mark in our lives and in the year when they occurred. Don’t be too shocked when another aircraft crash lands into our headlines and leaves us wondering what if.

Cyber controversy: The world of technology is an exploration people have just embarked on and we are all discovering the wonders and the horrors of the Internet and the devices we use. From newly implemented laws such as distracted driving to chilling crises like security breaches and hacks, 2014 was full of stories involving technology, proving that although we can send files across the globe we have yet to master this new tool. The celebrity nude images scandal and the Sony/North Korea hack were proof that the cloud and the ether are no safer than a dark alleyway. As we venture deeper, more awfulness will be discovered and hopefully vanquished.

Natural disaster: Finally, we come to natural disasters. Unlike 2012, 2015 does not have any prophesized apocalypse, and I hope Mother Nature knows that. Any act of God this year will undoubtedly be a shock whether it be an earthquake along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a volcano on an island nation, blizzards on the east coast of North America, or maybe even a wildfire close to home.

Bad things happen. They’re bound to happen and they’re probably happening already, but don’t let that ruin our year. We can rise above it; we have before. Here’s to a great year!

Are Talking Cars a Bad Idea?

Posted by  | October 22, 2014 |
Originally published in
Are Talking Cars a Good Idea?

Talking cars have been portrayed in media for generations, but now this fantasy is closer to reality than ever. Of course, I’m not talking about KITT from Knight Rider or Herby the Love Bug (be sure to view our list of top movie cars for more goodies). What I’m referring to is an innovative vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology that enables cars on the road to communicate with one another.

By 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is hoping to have mandated the new automotive communication system in an effort to reduce collisions. Relying on various global-positioning systems, radars and cameras, the new on-board feature will assist drivers by warning them of on-coming traffic, hazardous intersections, complicated left turns and other potential risks.

The question is – are these systems going to be effective?

Pro: Safety and Serviceability

NHTSA believes that this initiative will reduce 592,000 accidents a year, thus saving 1,083 lives. And according to a study conducted by the Government Accountability Office, approximately 76 per cent of crashes that involve two or more vehicles can be reduced with V2V technologies.

In addition, V2V technologies will also supply general traffic information to the driver when they commuting. Through the wireless connectivity to other vehicles, the driver will see which roads are congested in order to avoid them. This type of data will undoubtedly save time and fuel, as well as reduce traffic jams.

If safety and serviceability is the priority, there is no doubt that talking cars will indeed be a good idea.

Con: Privacy

However, there are a few matters to consider regarding talking cars that are causing car owners to think twice before driving off in such an intelligent machine.

The most immediate concern for V2V car buyers is the privacy factor. In a global infrastructure where hackers rule the day, talking cars could become large targets. Once cars become wirelessly linked to each other through cellular networks, hackers will be able to intercept those signals, and from there, drivers can only imagine the worst-case scenario, which may in fact make talking cars more dangerous than your average “mute” cars. With over 100 million lines of code involved in V2V technology, programmers and engineers are staying realistic when constructing firewalls and other security measures to restrict unwanted entries.

The Verdict

Since 2012, the University of Michigan Transportation Safety Research Institute, with 80 per cent of funding from U.S. Department of Transportation, have been undergoing an experiment where approximately 3,000 V2V cars are driving around Ann Arbor, Michigan. The project’s goal is to examine the system in full scale, determine whether traffic rules need altering and understand the safety benefits better. Recently, the organization has announced that they are planning to scale the project, tripling the connected vehicles on the road to 9,000.

By 2016, NHTSA and car manufacturers should be able to have a clearer understanding of what talking cars can do. Then they will be able to relay those findings to drivers to (hopefully) eliminate any form of doubt when it comes to this technology. After all, V2V technology will only function properly if the drivers actually buy into it.

It’s true that talking cars are not solving every problem on the road; in fact, the majority of accidents today only involve a single car, which is not something V2V technology can help prevent. But talking cars are a giant step forward in public safety.

This new automotive communication feature may have its downsides, but it should still be embraced. After all, it will not only make rescuing people in accidents easier, but allow us to avert collisions altogether.