Nearly 900,000 of the auto accidents that happen yearly on U.S. roadways start with a blind spot. But because most vehicles have a blind spot due to their frame design, there’s little a driver can do that completely eliminates this problem. And while technology has come a long way, automakers are still far from finding a real solution.
Recently, however, a 14-year-old girl from Grove, Pennsylvania, designed a solution that might as well be the one that sticks. And perhaps because she did so independently, moved by a need put forth by members of her own family, and in order to participate in the Society for Science and the Public’s Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars) science and engineering competition, she had no pressure from industry heads trying to keep her on her toes because of the countless regulations the car industry must follow. In other words, she had the freedom to flourish.
With the help of projectors that cast images of what’s behind the car’s pillars onto their surfaces, Alaina Gassler made the A-frame structure of vehicles essentially disappear. This created “ghost pillars” that reproduce live footage of anything happening outside of the vehicle, giving the driver a greater awareness of the obstacles and potential risks he would have ignored if he couldn’t have looked beyond the car’s frame.
Thanks to this ingenious idea, Gassler took home the grand prize, pocketing $25,000 and making headlines across the country. But more than making a name for herself, Gassler managed to demonstrate how important the freedom to create is in a developed economy. Unfortunately, the heavy regulatory burden imposed on the industry creates a maze that is often complicated to navigate.
In order to develop new designs and technology, these companies must make sure they aren’t breaking the rules, forcing them to spend a considerable amount of their earnings on an army of regulatory lawyers. As pressure builds up, firms do all in their power to avoid producing something the government will veto later. And while they have a way around this by lobbying the government and hoping that regulators will be persuaded to change the rules to accommodate them, that route isn’t always a done deal.
Needless to say, this intricacy makes it difficult for auto engineers to be creative, so it is no wonder that such a creative solution for a widespread problem would come from a carefree young engineer working on a science project on her own time and dime.
Regulations Serve Only to Muzzle Talent
The aggregation of regulations has the power to harm entire industries, keeping young and inspired entrepreneurs from entering the market. In the end, the lack of freedom many of these geniuses encounter ends up stifling their desire to make a difference, as breaking into the industry is often difficult and prohibitively expensive.
The young Gassler, who completed her projector-based technology system while in eighth grade, was not being moved by power, money, or desire to break into the industry. Instead, she was upset her grandmother had scraped the paint from the side of her car after not seeing a pole that was in her blind spot.
She acted on a demand that impacted a member of her family, and she wanted “to find a way to get rid of them,” she said. The young engineer didn’t have an army of regulatory lawyers telling her what she could or could not do with her resources, and she was not told that there were limitations as to what kind of features she could develop to address this issue.
If anything, this proves the importance of freedom, especially if we want auto engineers, designers, and manufacturers to create products that are both safe and appealing to their audience.
As AIER’s editorial director Jeffrey Tucker explained in this piece, regulation has done a great deal of harm, forcing the industry to go down a path that puts all drivers inside ugly, boring, and unattractive vehicles. Can this be considered progress? And if so, what would the opposite of progress look like for the auto industry?
Unfortunately for drivers and car lovers everywhere, we might never have an answer to this question. Unless, of course, we were all made aware that the government’s meddling in the auto industry has killed beauty, innovation, and passion — and that giving people their freedom to explore back is what will save it.
Reprinted from the American Institute for Economic Research.