Advanced Safety Technology: Driver Aid or Distracting Crutch?
The new Infiniti Q50 has a feature that allows it to sense an impending crash to the vehicle AHEAD of the one directly in front of it. This seems impossible, as the driver would not be able to even visually determine if a crash were about to occur two cars ahead. It demands the question– is safety technology a valuable aid, improving the skills of already attentive drivers? Or is it a crutch, allowing distracted drivers to pay even less attention to the road? The answer truly does reside in the head, eyes, reaction time and attentiveness of the driver. No two vehicle operators are the same, but we can draw some generalities about everyday drivers that are commonly held. There could even be two sides to the same feature, where bit of safety equipment Let’s start with the basics. Brakes, airbags, traction control, power steering and crumple zones are all pieces of safety equipment that are innumerably valuable. No matter how good a driver, bad brakes and steering could renders one’s skills useless. Other safety equipment, like the crumple zones and airbags, will protect even the best driver, when the unexpected happens. RELATED: Five Features Every Car Must Have. Period But these kinds of features are expected, while a new crop of high-tech safety features are taking some of the responsibility away from the driver. This can be good and it can be bad. Pre-Collision Warning:
How It Works: Sensors in the front of the car detect the distances of objects in front of it, relative to the speed and trajectory of the vehicle. Sensors can be radar, thermal imaging, or other types of technology. If it appears that a crash is imminent, the vehicle will alert the driver.
Why It’s Good: If you’re looking away from the road ahead, and the driver in front slams on his or her brakes, you will be alerted and can do something about it. (Hopefully brake like the dickens!)
Why It’s Bad: It essentially promotes distracted driving. You can now drive along and text, occasionally looking up to make sure that you’re not in the media.
RELATED: See photos of the 1972 Mercedes-Benz Experimental Safety Vehicle ESF 22
How It Works: Same as pre-collision warning, but in this case, if you do not heed the initial warnings, the vehicle will apply the brakes on its own.
Why It’s Good: In some cases, you might be applying a little bit of braking, but not really enough. This can do the rest of the work to keep you out of trouble.
Why It’s Bad: If you are a habitual texter, you really don’t learn your lesson.
PHOTOS: See images of the BMW MotoGP Safety Car Lineup
Blind Spot Monitoring System:
How It Works: Sensors, usually found on the underside of the side-view mirrors, determine if a vehicle is in your “shadow” or “blind spot” on either side.
Why It’s Good: Due to safety and design reasons, the door and rear pillars on new cars are as large as ever. Even the good driver cannot, see out of every angle. This allows good drivers to be even better ones.
Why It’s Bad: It encourages aggressive passing. I’ve known drivers to use this to determine when they are clear of the car on the left or right before abruptly cutting them off. Also, many people will not even look to the mirrors, simply checking if the sensors give you the “all-clear."
Lane Departure Warning System:
How It Works: Radar or cameras monitor the dotted lines on the road, relative to the speed and trajectory of the vehicle. If it senses the vehicle veering, it will alert the driver.
Why It’s Good: This has the potential to prevent vehicles from coming over the double-yellow line on two lane roads. It also keeps folks from veering into the wrong lane in many other situations.
Why It’s Bad: It promotes distracted driving.
RANTS: Dear Porsche - The Corvette Has Had a Targa For Years
Lane Departure Intervention System:
How It Works: Based on lane departure warning, but if initial warnings are not heeded, the vehicle will intervene and turn the car back into the proper lane.
Why It’s Good: If you veered too hard out of the lane, this is a great way to regain control without overcompensating in the opposite direction.
Why It’s Bad: For starters, I don’t want steering of the vehicle taken out of my hands. Second, this system doesn’t factor in the fact that I might be veering to avoid an object in the road or a pothole. You can warn me about something, bud don’t try and control my steering.
(Also, have you tried driving a new truck with lane departure warning on the highway? The LDW on the full size truck is constantly going off)
In-Car Texting Communication System:
How It Works: Reads out texts from your phone audibly, do you are not taking your eyes off the road. You can enter texts as well.
Why It’s Good: You don’t have to look away from the road.
Why It’s Bad: Using hands-free technology, texting or calling is still taking some attention away from the road. Also, what if you are texting with a friend who is driving and does not have the text-to-speach technology? You are enabling their distracted driving.
Surround View Parking Camera:
How It Works: Combines four wide angle cameras, but cleverly combines the images so that it looks like there is a camera directly above the car, showing you an overhead view from every side.
Why It’s Good: If you are a halfway decent parallel parker, this feature makes you a master.
Why It’s Bad: Once this feature becomes available on all cars, no one will take the time to learn how to parallel park. Heaven help us when that day comes.
Systems that I have no beef with include the around view monitor, backup collision warning systems, and all manner of tried and true safety features. Just remember, the best safety feature in the car is you, and if you are not functioning properly, then these other features are, in fact, just crutches rather than driver aids.