By on April 23, 2017

BMW track day

For the most part, crash avoidance and driver assistance technology is a welcome addition addition to the automotive landscape. While they can be a little invasive sometimes, they’re usually doing what they’re supposed to and helping to save the lives of drivers who may have had a momentary lapse in judgment or focus. However, there is a lot of worry over how lane assistance or emergency braking software will behave when you bring a streetcar to the track.

Several chapters of the BMW Car Club of America and the Porsche Club of America have already decided to forbid any vehicle equipped with aids. The fear is that track day organizers or instructors could be found liable if a car suddenly jerks right when it approaches the apex of a corner or suddenly decelerate when in close proximity to other vehicles. A driver might be caught off-guard if a car unexpectedly takes over and be unsure how to mitigate inputs they were unprepared for.

The bottom line is that newer cars are finding themselves in danger of being banned wholesale, and that’s just not going to work if track days are to continue in the years to come.

The BMW Car Club seems to be aware of this. After the earlier ban, the Genesee Valley chapter in New York has revised its decision and now wants assist-equipped vehicles marked for an additional safety check that would ensure those systems have been deactivated. “Because [crash avoidance systems] become active automatically at vehicle startup, it will be incumbent upon drivers to ensure they manually shut down their systems before proceeding onto the track,” the chapter’s chief driving instructor explained in a letter to Jalopnik. “Instructors and pit-out marshals will verify that the systems are indeed shut down before allowing your car on track. Cars will be required to display a special sticker on the windshield if these systems are installed, so that pit marshals can easily identify them and verify that the systems have been shut down prior to release into pit lane.”

Of course, this is just one chapter. The BMWCCA’s overall stance is a little different and has been working with BMW of North America to address the issue. In an earlier discussion with Road & Track the automaker made it clear that, while driving aids can be disabled, “Most advanced driver aids like lane departure warning and blind spot detection do not affect the ability of the driver to control the car on-track at high speed. In addition the systems can be shut off so that they are also not a distraction to a student.”

Meanwhile, BMWCCA’s national driving events chairman Jack Joyner has suggested this is much ado about nothing. “As I understand it, these systems can be turned off, and that might be all we need,” he said. “If I have heard correctly, people were freaking out over ABS when it was introduced too. I would ask the newer car owners not to panic, as we will be having a call or two on this subject over the next few days.”

[Image: BMWCCA]

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17 Comments on “Enthusiast Groups Unsure How to Best Handle Crash Avoidance Technology on Track Day...”

  • avatar

    It’s a problem because no matter what someone is going to sue BMW or who ever has the most money when they get in a wreck.

  • avatar

    I remember when ABS first became mainstream, cops went batcrap crazy over the technology–against it.

    I guess owning a BMW or a Porsche has truly jumped the shark, going away from club track days and instead doing Cars and Coffee where they just park and stare at their cars and sip overpriced coffee.

    (Also, I can’t help but think of military aviation moving away from hard-wired stick ‘n’ rudder stuff over to “it has quad redundant computers that actually fly the thing” fly by wire systems. I’m sure some of the Chuck Yeager wannabes poo-poohed fly by wire, claiming that they could do better than any computer, but the reality is that if you want the performance, tell the system what you want to happen in human terms and let the computer translate that into machine terms. Stop with the ego trip and don’t “turn the nannies off”. No, you can’t do better than the computer.)

    • 0 avatar

      “No, you can’t do better than the computer.”

      Who cares? I’m not fighting a war or running a Grand Prix or going for lap records. It’s a track day with a local car club.

    • 0 avatar

      For Cars and Coffee they definitely need the stability control activated, particularly the Mustang guys!

    • 0 avatar

      I may not be able to do better than the sort of calibration that is allowed on some performance cars and race cars, but the mainstream stuff with a single setting is targeted toward the least competent drivers. No thanks, my steering wheel corrections are far faster and more efficient than those clumsy applications of tank-steering.

      Anyway, this is not even relevant to the article. This isn’t about stability or preventing brake locking, it’s about systems that actively try to take control of the car. Systems that are designed for the street, not the track. Systems that make mistakes even in the environment that they were designed for.

      “In slippery weather, the traction control would completely kill engine power, leaving a pregnant pause before giving things another go; this made hill starts in the snow difficult, even on the Pirelli winter tires we fitted.

      There were occasional nits to pick even on the highway, such as the blind-spot monitoring system that would sound an alert on empty stretches of road, and the one time the K900—with cruise control activated—initiated full panic braking, even cinching the seatbelts tight, from 75 mph for no apparent reason. That never happened again, thankfully. ”

  • avatar

    “drivers who may have had a >monetary< lapse in judgment" is more like it?

  • avatar

    actually I feel just the opposite of the clubs. being in a safe environment gives the driver a chance to feel the limits of these new devices and how the car will respond to them when you’re under their control.a track day is the only place you’re going to get a chance to hang it out like that safely. it could be a life-saver

  • avatar

    Ten years ago, when I was thinking about buying a Porsche Cayman, the advice on a Cayman web site was not to turn off stability control on the track.

    • 0 avatar

      For beginners, thats not bad advice.

      For experienced individuals though, its awful.

      But if you have to ask the question, then leave it on ;)

    • 0 avatar

      I’d agree, and if you read some of Jack’s writing (particularly on R&T) he highly recommends it no matter what the car.

      Everyone thinks they’re the Stig, but in reality most sports car owners barely have the talent to handle the car with all of the nannies on. The good news is modern sports cars tend to have stages in their TCS/VSA/DSC systems with a “Sport” setting that allows some yaw and wheelspin, but it will intervene before things get unrecoverable.

      Unless you have pro-level skills, especially in a car as agile as a Cayman, it’s pretty easy to get yourself into an unrecoverable situation without the nannies on.

  • avatar

    I just found a video of a guy rolling a 2nd gen CR-V with a bull bar at Nürburgring but I don’t think is was due to crash avoidance systems.

  • avatar

    There is no room on the track for a car that is making safety maneuvers based on the assumption that it is on a public road. If you come into a corner a little too hot you may have to go over the apex curb a bit to fix your exit trajectory, if the car avoids the edge of the track thinking it is a lane departure, you won’t make your exit on the track. You will be four wheels off, hoping there is plenty of run off room and not Armco or a cement wall in your way. This is an entirely different argument from ABS or traction control systems, they don’t control the steering input which is critical when driving 10/10ths. Of course every car will be a little different, and if these systems can’t be turned off entirely, they probably should not be on the track. One would think that most cars that you would think of as being a potential track toy would allow lane departure to be fully disabled for this purpose. First world problems…

    • 0 avatar

      ABS and TC do control brakes and/or power delivery.

      Do you contend that these things aren’t “critical when driving 10/10ths”?

      • 0 avatar

        ABS and TC are predictable though. ABS in particular is not active unless the driver is actively braking, making it probably the most predictable driver aid out there.

        VSA/DSC is a bit less so, but it is still trying to keep the driver from getting into an unrecoverable yaw situation (depending on its aggressiveness), and will generally keep the car in a predictable path (ie a straight line) on track.

        Lane keep and emergency braking are the opposite of this, introducing inputs that may be unpredictable to the driver and other vehicles. The most important thing to remember on track is to be predictable, as that makes you safe. Unexpected braking and steering inputs are the opposite of that.

        • 0 avatar

          “ABS and TC are predictable though.”

          That all changes when all y’all understand the new systems well enough to predict their behavior.

          We got my wife a 2016 Honda Civic with AEB and LKAS, and after a few hours of wheel-time in it, I can predict how these systems will behave in our car pretty well, just like I can with ABS/TCS.

          Like with ABS/TCS, once the sports car club people get some experience with these systems, they will be well understood and will be able to be used appropriately in situations where they’re helpful.

          Given the way our Civic behaves and what the systems do, I would leave everything except LKAS on. LKAS is annoying and not dependable when you’re on the twisties, and I don’t think it would be helpful on the track. It’s theoretically possible that AEB could get confused in some track situations, but the first thing that happens is that a collision warning comes up on the dashboard, so an experienced track driver could learn what confuses the system by gradually driving harder. My intuition (understanding this car better than I understand track driving) is that, for someone like myself, the safest way for me to be on the track with this car would be for all of the electronic nannies to be turned on, except for LKAS and radar cruise. But, we didn’t buy this car to race it, so this is just a theoretical discussion.

          My point is that these systems are just like ABS and TCS in that their behavior is predictable when you have some wheel-time with them. Once you understand what they do, they can be used when they help and disabled when they don’t. It’s not rocket science, but it does mean that the way to resolve this FUD is for the people responsible for safety at track events to spend a couple of dozen hours on the track with each system to learn how it behaves. With that knowledge, they can figure out what the rules should be.

  • avatar

    How can you run streetcars where there aren’t any rails?

    /sorry, couldn’t resist

  • avatar

    This is a real problem. It’s not just the car taking over.

    Pre-crash sensors will prime the brakes because they think the car is going to crash into a wall instead of turn at high speed. After about 5 minutes of “priming” the brake pad is shot and the brakes don’t work.

    This is a big problem if you’re driving a 500+ hp / 4,000 lb AMG or ///M down a straightaway.

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