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What “Cars 3” Will Explore About Automotive Technology



Cars is back! In its third edition, our favorite car, Lightning McQueen, is dealing with a much bigger challenge than he has ever faced. Cars 3 will be in the cinemas on June 16. This time, Disney and Pixar have given Lightning McQueen a formidable opponent – Technology.

The third installment of the Cars franchise will be exploring the realm of driverless cars and the latest in car technology. It will be really interesting to see how Pixar will pitch its protagonist against advancing technology and still come out with a happy ending. But, before we delve into that, let’s find out what the movie is about according to the trailer.

Lightning McQueen is on the top of his game, until he is suddenly sidetracked because of the incredibly fast cars that are now entering the arena. He is devastated by the fact that he has to leave the game that is practically his life. To get back his wheels on the racetrack, he will have to put in everything he has got. This is his only chance, and the one thing standing between him and his goal is Jackson. It is the newcomer who is laden with all the new gadgets and is even driverless. The fans will have to wait for the movie to release to know how Lightning McQueen overcomes this amazing challenge. But, it is interesting to see that a kids’ movie is exploring such a cutting edge technology. But then, Pixar movies have never been run-of-the-mill kids’ films.

According to the producers, the new entrant on the race track, Jackson Storm, comes with all the latest improvements that automobile technology has to offer today. It is a computer-assisted car, that is perfect in almost all aspects, and interestingly, unbeatable. Bob Peterson and Kiel Murray, the screenplay writers for Cars 3, also shared the same views. According to them, as the technology is advancing, it is becoming more and more apparent that race car drivers may become a thing of the past. Yes, they are talking about driverless cars. With the human factor taken out of the equation, the cars can become even faster. In fact, in November, 2016 a Roborace Motorsport Series was organized. The event revolved around the possibility of driverless cars.

Driverless cars are not really a new concept. Cars 3 will definitely again open a discussion on this emerging and futuristic automotive technology. In fact, as early as 1957, General Motors had envisioned driverless cars to become a norm in the future. That future is now. Driverless cars are a reality today. And you know what? Driverless cars may well be the most disruptive technology we witness in our lifetimes. Big companies like Google, Nissan, and others have put serious resources behind this technology.

We all know what a driverless car is. But, how does it work? In the movie Cars 3, Jackson Storm features 3 sensors, which tell it when another car is around, when to change gears, and when to accelerate. This is pretty close to how the real thing works. The front of a driverless car has lasers to gauge the distance and a radar panel that acts as the eyes of the car enabling it to see hundreds of meters ahead. Similar radar panels are on the back of the car as well to get a sense of the objects behind the car. There are cameras installed on every side of the car to make sure that the vehicle has a 360o view of its immediate environment. So, if someone crossing the road suddenly pops in front of the car, it will make a correction in its path or come to a complete halt, depending on the situation. Finally, using their parking sensors, they can park anywhere, just like human drivers. Driverless cars are a reality. They can cruise, detect objects in their way, park, and do everything that a car with a driver can.

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Driverless cars really are the next frontier in the transport industry. In fact, if you take a closer look at how we drive our cars today, you will find that the switch to driverless cars may not be an abrupt one. You know why? Because our cars are becoming smarter in an incremental way. Earlier, cars used to have cruise control, which has now been upgraded to adaptive cruise control. Then, our cars graduated into vehicles that sport lane keeping systems and later, automatic braking systems, intelligent navigating systems, parking sensors, and so on. Do you see how we have slowly moved from a car that was completely operated by a driver to a car that is actually driven by technology. So, in the future, when you finally get to ride in a driverless car, it is not going to be a drastic shift from manual and self-driven cars. People will have been slowly acclimatized to expect their cars to be smarter and this will make it much easier to adopt the new technology.

Driverless cars are also seen as a way to eliminate 90% of car crashes. A staggering 35,000 people die every year in car accidents in the United States alone. This number can be drastically reduced with driverless cars. The primary cause of these car accidents is human error. With the human error out of the picture, the roads will become safer. In addition, driverless cars a great way to help differently abled individuals drive. They can just key in where they want to go and just sit in the car. In fact, Google allowed Steve Mahan, a blind man from the US, to successfully test drive their driverless car. This is a huge step towards empowering differently abled people. Who wouldn’t want that? It sounds all positive, right? Then, doesn’t it make sense that we adopt this technology as quickly as we can? Not really! As with everything, there is a flip side to this technology as well. There is a huge ethical dilemma attached to driverless cars. Until it is solved, driverless cars cannot be allowed to run on the roads. Let’s understand the flip side of the coin too.

Imagine a scenario where all cars are replaced by driverless cars. Let’s say the car develops a mechanical error and can’t be stopped. Then, how does the car decide whom to save – one pedestrian, or the many people crossing the road, or the passenger of the car? What should be the metric that the car should consider to make this decision? Who would want a car that would sacrifice its own passengers? On the other hand, who would allow a car to be on the roads that would kill people on the road to save its passengers at all costs? This is a problem that the governments and regulators have to ponder on. The infrastructure will have to be upgraded, the laws will have to be tweaked, the cyber security systems will need to be beefed up, and so on.

So far, we have seen the wonders and the problems associated with driverless cars on the road. Now imagine replacing drivers on the racing track with driverless cars. Roborace, as mentioned before, offers a one-of-a-kind platform for experimentation. It will not only yield data to make improvements over the existing driverless cars, but also in the car racing arena. As they get rid of the biggest constraint in the car design and manufacturing, the humans, it will be interesting to see the speeds that can be achieved on the race track. Many experts rightly point out that with the human factor removed, car racing will lose its charm. It is the split-second decision making skills of the humans that make a difference between winning and losing. With such a big variable removed, the results will become predictable and the sport boring.

The movie Cars 3 is also tapping into the human side of car racing. The trailer of the movie also has one of the cars saying, “You will never be as fast as Storm, but you can be smarter than him”. This means that Lightning McQueen still has a chance against all the superior gadgetry of the new kid on the block – Storm – if he plays his cards right. Cars 3 will explore the fear of being pushed into oblivion because of the advent of new technology. This is the movie that will be the most “human” of the three we have seen so far. Cars 3 will touch a lot of cords with us, because a lot of things that we are familiar with are becoming obsolete in the face of new technology.

How will Lightning McQueen be able to overcome the latest challenge and stand his ground in the face of the technologically superior, Jackson Storm? Stay tuned.

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