A few months ago, I accepted an invitation from my car manufacturer to attend a driver orientation program. During that course, we were shown some fancy features of the bar. Other than ABS and air bags, which are pretty standard, the car had some kind of crash-warning technology. This feature triggers with a sudden lifting off the accelerator and causes the car to prepare for a crash by locking the doors, closing the windows and activating the brakes, amongst others. It did not seem like very important information at that time.
On Friday, I was at a traffic junction and followed a line of cars making a right turn as indicated by the traffic lights. Cars in both directions were directed to make only right turns and it was red for cars going straight. As I confidently hit the accelerator, a white sedan in the opposite direction decided to break the rules and travel straight instead. He missed the car in front of me and was headed for a head-on collision with me. I cannot exactly remember what happened but I must have lifted my foot off the pedal hit the brakes. I could see this gentlemen in the white sedan grinning away as he avoided the near collision, while I glanced to check that the car behind me did not plough into my rear. I could hear the doors locking and the windows shutting, the brakes kicking in and the car stopped in the nick of time. Just like the technology said it would.
Last week I talked about the car industry learning from the software industry. I take some of that back.
The technology applied by the car industry prevented an accident that Friday or I would have been writing this blog from a hospital bed. Technological improvements are useful--they help provide an advantage that would not have been available previously. However, they are not entirely fool-proof because at the end of the day, the most important factor is still the nut behind the wheel. Let's not make too much out of technology or attribute too little to it--I just thank god that technology gave me the edge I needed last Friday.
Also, as lawyers we sometimes wonder what our social purpose is to this noble calling. This may even seem more remote for tech lawyers. However, the days I spent helping companies implementing technology that helped fight SARS and now H1N1, lead me to realize that sometimes, we are contributing to the greater good. Even as tech lawyers.