X Prize — and yet another . . .

I am disappointed that the X Prize did not note that there may be trade offs involved — that a zillion mph vehicle may well be less safe than a conventional vehicle. Also, the award criteria says that the vehicles will have “to meet safety regulations in the U.S. and other markets.”

I would argue that those mandated safety features act as “floors” and can restrict innovation by forcing design features into certain areas, which can lead to neglect of other areas that could provide greater safety or to unintended consequences. (Think of the air bag mandate’s effects on children riding in the front seats of vehicles.)

Market forces may have more quickly led to other safety features, such as accident avoidance technology — sensors for proximity to other vehicles, blind spot alarms, rear sensors and cameras, which, as you have noted, have been introduced on pricier vehicles.

The X Prize criteria includes other mandated safety features — windshield wipers and washers, seat belts and restraints, rear and side view mirrors, lamps, lighting, horn, indicators, brake lights and reflective devices consistent with safety regulations.

Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to let innovators come up with their own safety features — after all, windshield wipers were invented in 1903 and became standard on cars in 1913 — and let competition and consumer choice move technology forward?