QOTD: What Tech Makes You a Lazier Driver?

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

One of the criticisms of all the various pieces of technology that serve as driving aids is this: They make it too easy for drivers to fall into bad and lazy habits.

I thought of this while making a lane change near my Chicago home the other day. The test car I was in had blind spot monitoring, and I made the change without turning my head, and with barely a peep at the mirrors.

It was a harmless maneuver, as no one was near me. The system worked. But I chided myself – I’d let technology make me lazy.

There’s another aspect to this – the blind spot monitoring system on this same vehicle had also been too sensitive during my time with the car. It sometimes flashed when I could turn my head and use the mirrors to see I had ample space to make a lane change. Maybe the amount of space wasn’t ideal, but it’s urban driving – a lot of people don’t give others enough space, yet there’s just enough to make the maneuver, especially if the following driver waves you over.

This oversensitivity was annoying, but may have led me to be too trusting of the system – if it was that easily activated in tight traffic, and it’s not lighting up in light traffic, then the street must be clear.

To be fair to these systems, I was a bit lazy with lane changes even before this tech reached the market. This goes back to the ‘90s, which is when I learned to drive. Back then, the only driver’s aid available on most cars was cruise control. As much as I knew I should turn my head before each lane change, I too often relied on my mirrors and my mirrors alone. I don’t recall ever getting into an accident because of this, but there were a few near misses (or near hits, as George Carlin might say).

Rear cross-traffic alert is another system that encourages laziness, but can also be mighty helpful. I did do minor damage to my ’97 Accord once in the mid-Aughts after backing out of a parking spot and forgetting to look. I got tagged and minor body work followed. So I appreciate the tech now, but does it encourage drivers to do what I did, instead of what they should do?

Adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning – are these systems making you lazy or leading to bad habits? What about ProPilot, SuperCruise, Autopilot? After all, those systems are almost fully autonomous.

What say you?

[Image: Mazda]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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  • Burgersandbeer Burgersandbeer on May 19, 2018

    Reading these comments makes me think of the Asiana crash at SFO back in 2013. If I remember correctly, much of the crash analysis focused on pilot training and the emphasis some airlines place on training only with the instruments, with the result being that the pilots were not well prepared for a visual approach. Driver training is minimal as is; we aren't going to see any requirements that drivers get un-assisted seat time. I guess certain skills erode with more time spent using assists, but many drivers aren't paying attention with or without the assists. I think the assists do much more good than harm.

  • SnarkyRichard SnarkyRichard on May 20, 2018

    I'd be happy with an aftermarket head unit that got both good AM and FM reception after the stock stereo in my 2006 Tacoma stopped getting good reception on either a couple of months ago . Does such a unicorn actually exist ? Traction control would be nice too on starts from a stop on wet roads on rainy days , but I'll settle for the former and live with the latter .

    • Burgersandbeer Burgersandbeer on May 21, 2018

      Check your antenna and the wiring between it and your stock head unit before considering replacement head units.

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