By on October 2, 2018

Over the weekend, I found myself conversing with a young woman who admitted to being slightly creeped out by modern automotive technology. She had a bone to pick with everything from push-button ignitions to adaptive cruise control. It was surprising admission from an individual who is planted squarely in the middle of the Millennial age bracket and has no serious interest in cars, but one I’ve been hearing more often lately.

The American Automobile Association seems to be rather touchy on the issue, as well. Much of its interest in the subject revolves around present-day tech lending itself to distracted driving, something it is firmly against. But the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety appears absolutely convinced that the introduction of advanced driver assistance systems will save lives. However, it also believes that its full potential won’t be unlocked until consumers accept these technologies, understand how to use them, use them as intended, and avoid misusing or becoming over-reliant on them.

Frankly, that sounds like wishful thinking. So long as advanced driving aids exist, they’ll probably be misunderstood and misused. People don’t even use their turn signals correctly, for Christ’s sake. 

We seem to be living in an era where technology has outrun the general public’s ability to comprehend it. Yes, it probably feels that way no matter which year you’re living in. But when I launched into an extravagantly dull diatribe on driving aids and semi-autonomous vehicles, the woman’s eyes widened. “I didn’t know about all of that,” she said. “It’s kind of scary that the car is in charge of so much.”

She then asked me how we ensure automakers intuitive produce systems that won’t fail us. I didn’t have a good answer, as there really isn’t one. The Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration don’t seem overly interested in regulating new technologies and there’s no federally mandated driver’s training course that incorporates them. And, if you’re hoping to get the play-by-play at a dealership, you’ll probably be the one doing the asking. You’ll still need to fortunate enough to find a salesperson who knows what they’re talking about if you want the straightest of scoops.

The best we have is the NHTSA proudly announcing that automakers have informally agreed to make automatic emergency braking standard equipment by 2022 — saving it the trouble of having to draft something it’ll just have to run by Congress, which doesn’t seem to know much about cars or technology. Meanwhile, automakers get a free pass to test out new software and hardware without much oversight.

While we can argue endless as to whether or not it’s better that way, it doesn’t help get the public informed. In a recent survey, AAA discovered a significant percentage of drivers did not even understand the tech within their own vehicles. Using a sampling of 1,380 owners of specific vehicle trims, identified as including three or more relevant technologies, AAA found that most owners trusted and were satisfied with the systems in their cars — even if they couldn’t fully comprehend it.

From the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety:

Only 21 [percent] of owners of vehicles with [blind spot monitoring] systems correctly identified an inability to detect vehicles passing at very high speeds as a limitation of the system; the remainder expressed various other misconceptions about its function or reported that they were unsure of the system’s limitations.

33 [percent] of owners of vehicles with [automatic emergency braking] systems did not realize that the system relied on cameras or sensors that could be blocked by dirt, ice, or snow.

The survey data also offered evidence of potentially unsafe behaviors stemming from the inclusion of certain driving aids. Among the worst examples were the 29 percent of respondents who admitted to occasionally feeling comfortable enough to engage in non-driving activities while using adaptive cruise control. Another 30 percent claimed they relied entirely upon their blind spot monitoring system to change lanes, either occasionally or routinely failing to physically check their blind spot by turning their head.

If you’re not sufficiently horrified already, allow us to remind you that previous studies showed a correlation between advanced driving aids and complacency behind the wheel. They may even actively dull your ability to drive.

While I’m scrambling to offer a solution to what looks to be a rather serious issue, I am willing to concede that advanced driver assistance systems do help make terrible drivers better. But what use is that if it makes proficient drivers worse?

[Image: General Motors]

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73 Comments on “Scary Stats: Drivers Don’t Know Jack About the Tech In Their Car...”


  • avatar
    mikedt

    It would probably be safe to say People don’t know jack about XX in their YY.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    It would probably be safe to say People don’t know jack about XX in their YY. I work with college educated people who are, and this is the key, very good at their JOB, and yet I often wonder how they function at home since the simplest non-job related task seems to confound them.

  • avatar
    d4rksabre

    Driving aids are overrated. I turn off whatever I can but it seems like having them will become unavoidable in the near future. They better get driverless cars going, because pretty soon actual driving is going to be no fun at all.

  • avatar
    redapple

    I like the driver aids. I trust them.
    I wanted my new car to have:
    -blind spot
    -back up camera
    -smart cruise
    -automatic braking.

    The Subaru Eyesight works flawlessly. Glad I have it.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    The intended use of these systems is to sell you a bunch of stupid radar sensors. Beyond the initial purchase, their reason d’etre is to sell you more of those radars when your bumper gets scuffed or your windshield or taillight lens gets a chip in it and needs to be replaced. That’s it.

    Oh, you didn’t want an all-black interior and you’re trying to pick maple wood trim? The trim is $395 and the leather package is $1,499, but you’ll also have to buy the $2,995 sensing package and the $3,249 convenience package and the $1,299 touchscreen package to get that cream leather and maple wood.

    • 0 avatar
      jagerninja

      Oh man, as a Texan trying to buy a car that doesn’t have a black interior, this hits home. My current car is black leather and turns into an oven in the summer, so I want something lighter, but good luck. Not only is it an expensive option on most cars, but most dealerships don’t even carry it. I had a Jeep dealer tell me that they don’t even buy any Wranglers with tan interiors (and heaven forbid you ever say the words “custom order” to a car salesman). And can someone tell me why every sport trim ever comes with a black interior? I want the big engine, but I don’t want black seats!

      /rant Phew, I needed to get that off my chest.

      • 0 avatar
        IBx1

        I’m right here with you in Houston; I can do black cloth but if I get anything leather it has to be on a scale of light brown to white, and ventilated.

        Besides thermal considerations, I just hate the monolithic look of an all-black interior. Let me see the shapes and lines the designer put in there.

  • avatar
    arach

    Yeah I pretty much ignore the road when I have adaptive cruise control on.

    After 70,000 miles of it working flawlessly, you just learn to trust it.

    And while some of you will scream that I’m a reckless murderer, truth is I just like to be honest. I teach a collegiate course on science and technology, and in that course we discuss how it is generally accepted that humans will naturally hand over control to technology once they trust it.

    How many of us still check our spam folders, or wonder if our voice mail systems actually got all the voicemails? We don’t worry about these techs because they work well enough that our brains naturally focus on where the mental energy creates more sufficient rewards.

    I was anti-all these techs at first, until I had them. And they slowly earn your trust subconsciously, even though I KNOW they shouldn’t. I shouldn’t stop paying attention, but I will. Just like virtually everyone else will.

    And that is scary, but humans have done it for ages, and will continue to do so, often relinquishing TOO MUCH control over to these systems.

    When we trust technology, we hand over control, over and over and over again. That doesn’t matter that we shouldn’t, we will. Thats how we work, and the sooner we recognize that the better we can actually design systems to work with natural human tendencies.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      When I’m driving on adaptive cruise and lane-keep assist, I let the car take over the short-distance tedious busywork (lane keeping and following distance maintenance) because the car is very good at those tasks. It’s less tiring to drive when you aren’t constantly having to make minor adjustments to speed and direction.

      In return, I get to do a better job at things the car either can’t do, or is crappy at, namely looking down the road for hazards that have nothing to do with following distance or lane-keeping. (e.g. seeing a semi starting to lumber down an acceleration lane, dead-stopped traffic a couple hundred yards ahead, emergency vehicles, etc. All those things I can now do a lot better because I don’t have to split my attention with the short-distance busy-work.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      I don’t want this stuff.

      I don’t want it because I know I’ll get lazy and trust it.

      And then it’ll fail when I need it, or it’ll prevent me from pulling some illegal maneuver that’s really the only correct way out of the problem.

  • avatar
    gtem

    The rental XC90 I had was insane in terms of how many menus you had to hop through and swipe to access to do something simple like adjust the bass/treble on the stereo. No wonder modern cars have lane keep assist and all that other stuff, it’s just about impossible to drive the car safely and make any other adjustments otherwise! It’s a brave new world.

    • 0 avatar

      Wipe down, settings, sound, tone, equalizer, select or customize! Of course back in the good ol days you just had a tone knob…. The B&W upgrade for the XC90 is beautiful… but $3200, which is more than I’ve paid for most cars in my life!

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Great point, and my feelings exactly. Making the most basic and essential functions incredibly complex and multi-stepped to access and activate them is ridiculous, especially making those demands on a driver at speed is and “antisafety” feature.. I am okay with complex technology, but the engineers need to make the technology’s interface with humans quick, discoverable, and intuitive. Tactile dials knobs and buttons just make sense. Touch screens mounted in the middle of the dash? Idiotic B.S!!!

    • 0 avatar
      KevinC

      My buddy’s wife has an XC90, has had it for at least a year. Went for a ride in it for the first time, as a rear passenger, and as she was fumbling around trying to get the AC running, she managed to bop me in the cranium with the power-folding rear headrest. It took several blocks of distracted driving worth of fumbling around to actually find the climate controls and get the AC working. I sat shotgun in a later ride and played around with the system – an utter abortion, I can’t believe they actually delivered a car with such a poorly executed system.

  • avatar
    jagerninja

    Listen, as a Millennial who works in technology, you can’t overestimate my generation’s tech prowess. We grew up with computers and technology, but in my experience, most folks don’t care how it works and will *actively avoid* learning how it works. The gulf between the people who use technology and the people who build and understand technology is widening, so you’re going to see more and more people who take tech for granted and then get scared when they realize how much they don’t know.

  • avatar
    oldowl

    Technologies that help provide safety and basic operation of convenience items are useful. But the hundreds of pages of manuals that explain those and subsidiary systems are daunting and nearly indigestible. Compounding confusion is the undergrowth of knobs, touch points, push switches, voice command features, and other novelties that can interrupt concentration on driving the vehicle.
    Those bring out the Ned Ludd in me.

  • avatar
    MBella

    Everyone seems to be missing the point with these “nannies”. If you are driving the vehicle like you should, you will never notice they are there. Nothing stops you from properly adjusting your mirrors and checking your blindspot even with a blind spot system. You can and still should be paying attention to traffic in front of you and stop by yourself. We are all still human however, and it’s nice to know if your concentration lapses for the split second traffic in front of you stops, the system will likely save you. You can’t rely on it because there are many limitations to these systems, as has been proven by many of the Tesla autopilot crashes that there cannot be overdependency on it.

    I keep the systems on my company on and have the warnings set to come on at the earliest moment. I do this not for safety, but to try and get as many of the false alerts that customers experience, so that I can relate better. So far, they haven’t been to invasive.

    • 0 avatar
      d4rksabre

      This isn’t true. The front collision warning on my Impala is the most obtrusive thing in the world. It goes off in completely mundane normal driving. I had to turn it off because it was making me insane. Really excited for my car to slam my brakes on when I’m not asking it to.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryannosaurus

      I recently rented 2 new vehicles, a 2018 Toyota Camry and Chevy Colorado both with less than 4,000 miles on them. They had latest safety systems for their base models. What I found fascinating was all of the safety aids were turned off. In order to turn them back on, I had to drill down into menus and use buttons with symbols that I didn’t recognize. This means the previous renters had done the same to turn them off. They must have really disliked them. I know this is anecdotal but, shouldn’t drivers of an unfamiliar vehicle want all of the safety aids turned on?

      • 0 avatar
        forward_look

        Not if they are constantly giving false alarms and distracting you.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        I’ll wade into this careful.

        I had an early production 2017 LaCrosse as a rental with a lot of the safety tech. The lane keeping assist was AWFUL. It was incredibly intrusive, the torque on the steering wheel was so strong it would jar me. The system had a hard time with uneven paint lines and would false alarm. I turned it off. I’m guessing GM must have had a TSB or made some changes because in later production vehicles I didn’t experience the same.

        I had a Toyota Corolla as a rental with their full safety suite. I found some of the technology great, and some of the technology meh, and one useless. The adaptive cruise control was useless in anything but the lightest of traffic. Even on the “closest” setting it kept a gap so wide cars would pull in front of the gap, causing the system to slow down, causing more cars to pull in front of the gap, causing it to slow down even further, causing more cars…I stopped using it.

        The automatic high beams were 100% useless. They wouldn’t come on in situations where I would use them (rain, Puget Sound winter, no street lights, no on coming traffic) and would come on sometimes with oncoming cars (then turn off right basically flashing the car coming at me).

        The rest worked well, and the LED headlights in the Corolla were FANTASTIC, huge improvement over the technology when Toyota first came out with them. In low beams it was like a nice patch of daylight in front of the car.

        • 0 avatar
          Lockstops

          This brings us to a new issue we didn’t really used to have (that much): so many of these assistant/safety systems and in my experience they vary WILDLY in how well or poorly they work, or even in which manner they were designed to work. This causes the need to arrange a test drive with a car that has all the tech you’re thinking of getting with your car.

          For example with BMW they have several completely different types of adaptive cruise: the usual one with radar and the new one (on at least the i3) that is solely camera-based. The i3’s adaptive cruise sucks in many situations. When there’s spray due to wet roads or the sun blinds the camera then the system deactivates. Stationary cars are usually not detected, for example when you’re approaching stopped traffic at a red light. Large white surfaces like the back of a white van or bus is rarely detected. Motorcycles are not detected except in rare cases and situations.

          And on top of it all you can’t deactivate its functionality and use a traditional non-adaptive cruise control: it’s all or nothing! There is a very large difference between radar and camera-based adaptive cruise control, something to consider when comparing different cars.

          Then there’s how the systems are programmed and calibrated in different cars which can vary between models and even model years! For example with the i3’s adaptive cruise when you’re driving faster than a vehicle ahead and approaching that traffic on the motorway it reacts to those vehicles too soon even when adjusted to the shortest follow distance, meaning that you have to switch to an empty lane _very_ early, which is not a good thing in many traffic situations. And you have to be alert because otherwise the car will smoothly slow you down to the speed of the vehicle ahead and you won’t notice. On bends on the motorway when you’re on the left lane and there’s trucks on the right lane the car will often slow you down since it can’t tell that they’re on the other lane.

          Then repeat this with dozens of different systems and have fun comparing different cars before purchase!!

          Volvo’s collision avoidance systems suck, they’re too sensitive and cause super-dangerous emergency braking for no reason in traffic. Others perform well. Some cars have poor automatic high beams, some work so fantastic that IMO they are the best advancement in automotive tech in the last 2 decades at least (for those who have to drive in rural areas often). There’s even a large difference in how well rain sensing wipers work!

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Speaking for myself, I LOVE the driver-assist aids on my ’17 CR-V. Adaptive Cruise works great, lane-keep assist is acceptable (I treat it like an assist, not Auto-Drive), blind-spot monitoring is a useful safety net, and if I wasn’t a turn-signal kinda guy, lane departure mitigation would turn me into one.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Every one of those aides has its time and place.

    Emergency braking would have saved me from my stupid self about a month ago when I had that little rear-ending mishap. Weirdly I’m one of those people who gets more distracted in bumper-to-bumper traffic than on the wide open road. I like blind spot monitoring because current vehicles are getting harder and harder to see out of – I can’t see blind spot monitoring having been a benefit on my 1982 Celebrity, you could see all the way around that vehicle pretty easily.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I’m still surprised by the number of people I see in newer cars who are holding a cellphone to their ear as they drive. It’s like Bluetooth was never invented.

    I work in IT – and have to discuss technical things with non-techy people all of the time. Staying high altitude with them can be difficult as a lot technology and/or software is essentially “magic box” from their perspective They don’t care how it works as long as it does work and they get the result that they want.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I generally like driving aids. However, I look at it as belt and suspenders. I still look over my shoulder, watch the road while I driving, etc.

    One thing I do not like is adaptive cruise control. I hate it. If it was infinitely customizable, then maybe I would want to use it but in even moderate traffic, the minimum safe distances it uses even at its lowest setting, is way too much for how people actually drive.

    Please automakers, if you give cars adaptive cruise control, also give them a way to defeat it. I cannot realistically travel any roadways using cruise control with other traffic if my car is braking every time something comes within 50 yards of it. Way more aggravation and work than just keeping your foot on the pedal or having old school cruise control with no radars/lidar.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      It’s not really possible to make blanket statements about adaptive cruise control (or any other active safety technology) because every manufacturer implements it differently. Some manufacturers program overly conservative following distances, which encourage other drivers to cut in. But other manufacturers’ systems work quite well. Can’t issue a blanket dismissal until you’ve tried them all.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I think the secret is incorporating tech as passively as possible. It’s really sad to see someone like my father who would love to buy a new car, but doesn’t because he’s so overwhelmed and intimidated by tech that he just continues to drive his techless car

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The young woman that’s so averse to technology sounds like a potential “Roadkill” fan.

  • avatar
    Funky D

    The only driving aid that I have found useful is a backup camera. That does come in handy.

    I believe that the other aids will foster dependence on them and thus degrade the ability of the driver. Having had a couple rentals with the blind spot detection, I found that it didn’t coincide with where I know to be a clear distance and was more of a distraction than anything. As long as I can turn them all off, I will be OK. Or maybe I will just go back to a big ol’ Impala SS :-)

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      You just rang a bell in my mind. It relates to airline pilots who are so dependent and or just used to automation that their actual flying skills are dull and dormant. I read about this in a write up of the Air France 447 crash in the Atlantic ocean.
      Count me in as a hands on, skilled attentive driver sort of guy. I don’t need and entertainment center in my car, the act of driving itself is the best entertainment.

      • 0 avatar
        markf

        “You just rang a bell in my mind. It relates to airline pilots who are so dependent and or just used to automation that their actual flying skills are dull and dormant. I read about this in a write up of the Air France 447 crash in the Atlantic ocean.
        Count me in as a hands on, skilled attentive driver sort of guy. I don’t need and entertainment center in my car, the act of driving itself is the best entertainment.”

        Good point, that crash was 100% human error because the inexperienced pilots didn’t under the basics of flying and relied on one system for airspeed instead of trying to verify what they were “seeing”

  • avatar
    Funky D

    The only driving aid that I have found useful is a backup camera. That does come in handy.

    I believe that the other aids will foster dependence on them and thus degrade the ability of the driver. Having had a couple rentals with the blind spot detection, I found that it didn’t coincide with where I know to be a clear distance and was more of a distraction than anything. As long as I can turn them all off, I will be OK. Or maybe I will just go back to a big ol’ Impala SS :-)

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “The only driving aid that I have found useful is a backup camera. That does come in handy.”

      In my experience, they feel so useful these days because it’s becoming so damn hard to see out the back of sedans and crossovers. I never wished for a backup cam on my old sedans or 4Runner or MPV with big windows and obvious corners.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        “In my experience, they feel so useful these days because it’s becoming so damn hard to see out the back of sedans and crossovers. I never wished for a backup cam on my old sedans or 4Runner or MPV with big windows and obvious corners.”

        Generally agree with you that the terrible sight lines in cars now are what bumped cameras from a convenience to a necessity but even in the good old days when cars had windows and I hadn’t gotten sloppy from relying on the crutches I was still never good enough to put the tow ball under the coupler on the first try.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I’ve had vehicles with backup sensor arrays and/or backup cameras since 2008. Earlier this year I had a Titan pickup truck as a rental that oddly didn’t have a backup camera (I thought they were mandated in 2018?). Holy crap, my old school backup skills SUCK now. The biggest thing I stopped doing was checking side mirrors for corner obstructions. Sensors and wide angle cameras negate the need to even consider it. Had a young woman not frantically waved at me I would have embarrassingly clipped a tree on the driver side back corner.

      I wouldn’t do away with the tools, modern vehicles have horrid rear visibility in the name of passenger safety, utility, and CAFE standards, but over reliance on any tool like this can dull the skills.

  • avatar
    thalter

    Not surprising. Most people can’t even use their Automatic Temperature Control correctly. I don’t know how many times I get into someone else’s car with ATC, and they are essentially using it as a manual system, with the temperature turned all the way up (or down), and the fan speed on override.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      My in-laws now have 2 vehicles with an auto climate control. Neither one is ever set in a way that it is being used as a “thermostat.”

      I have to remind my wife that if she constantly has the AC set to recirculate in a vehicle that eventually things will smell like “swamp-a$$”

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        no, Dan, always having recirc on will NOT cause things to smell like you think.

        Despite its name, recirc does allow some level of fresh air to come in.

        I am astounded at how little people know of their cars, especially people who seek out forums like this.

    • 0 avatar
      Lockstops

      And headlights. Just now it was dark and it was raining hard, meaning it was pitch black and poor visibility, and of course I saw a few cars driving without lights on (one had their front drls on but rear was dark).

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I have found the best driving aid for my sanity is full speed adaptive cruise control. In Puget Sound, even under light traffic conditions driving with “normal” cruise control is near impossible between left lane campers, unconscious lane pacers, and Metro buses that are compelled to move across four lanes of I-5 in one move because they have a small yield sign painted on the back of the bus.

    Having my speed adapt automatically and then return to the speed I want just flat out saves my sanity. I also like that it brakes on downhill sections automatically (or downshifts in steep hills) although I have other vehicles without full speed cruise control that have done this.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    Until I feel confident enough to fall asleep in a car on a long road trip and let the thing drive the whole way for me, I’ll do my own driving.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    My fear is that enough people will become dependent on the driver aids in one car and will be completely oblivious that another car they’re driving doesn’t have it.

    Automatic headlights are a prime example. So many people expect them and don’t turn on the service lights. I was behind a guy this morning who was completely invisible at 530.

    I have the autobraking in my car which has never activated and the blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert. The blindspot monitoring goes off after I’ve recognized the car it’s warning me of but the cross traffic alert is helpful in parking lots. I appreciate that it’s there.

    Another driving aid is growing more and more niche as manuals die and that’s the hill-start assist on the Mazda. I’ll get laughed at, but I appreciate that it’s there.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Driving tech has three big problems. First, more than half the US population has an IQ below 100, which means they probably will never understand how to properly use much of the technology. For example, research suggests a person needs an IQ of 92+ to independently read and understand cooking instructions on a food package, so imagine how difficult it will be for low IQ people to navigate through menus, coordinate switches, etc. to setup and use driving aids. Second, many people with higher IQs are too damned lazy or unconcerned about driving to take the time to understand how to properly setup and use driving aids. Third, those that have the intelligence and motivation to understand and use driving aid will likely put too much faith in “autopilot” and crash into a road barrier while taking a nap. In short, until reliable, simple, fully autonomous systems are available – we are all doomed.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Forget about all the new driver safety tech, I still regularly see people holding their cellphones in cars that definitely have bluetooth. We haven’t even mastered bluetooth, we may never have a plurality of drivers understanding automatic braking or lane keeping. People are dumb and lazy.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    My favorite driving aid is the hill hold functionality in my Fiesta ST when launching from stop on an incline. I don’t care, but it has made teaching my son to drive a stick less stressful than my dad must’ve felt. Outside of that, the overboost functionality is a nice “driver aid” as is the slick shifter. That last bit is true. My F150 is great at shutting out the world like an old school Oldsmobille or something, but having to actually drive a car and being involved IMHO makes me a better driver. For the record, cant use a cell phone if your hands are busy steering and shifting.

  • avatar
    MLS

    As others have mentioned, many drivers can’t handle simple technologies that have been around for decades, much less advanced safety aids. Perhaps most infuriating are the idiots who defeat the vehicle’s automatic headlights and drive unilluminated at night. Just leave the damn switch on automatic, FFS.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I have experienced countless drivers that don’t trust basic cruise control, automatic headlamps, and/or couldn’t be bothered to setup the Bluetooth in their car. It is truly mind blowing.

  • avatar
    RamblerAmerican

    Cars built in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s had much better visibility through the windows. Now I have giant blind spots to deal with on my 2013 Honda CR-V that demands more tech to see around the vehicle. How about making cars less stylish and giving the human driver better visibility through the glass windows to spot hazards?

  • avatar
    gtem

    Here’s an easy driver assist I’d love to see become widespread: headlights come on automatically when wipers are on. Can’t believe the amount of idiots driving without lights in serious downpours.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      I for one would love to experience traffic in a rainstorm where nobody had headlights on, as long as visibility is greater than a few hundred yards. Parking lights, maybe. All of the headlight glare is bad enough, but it is compounded by the fact that the wet road in front of the vehicles reflects that glare and makes the visual field all the more blinding and unnatural. It would be a fun experiment. I could be wrong and might opt for all the lights on, but I do have doubts. Human eyes did not evolve in a glare rich environment.

  • avatar

    I’ve had the full packages in a few cars I’ve driven…I’m sampled the BMW and Mercedes systems, and in about an hour, shut each one off. I know I’m crossing a solid line, thanks.

    Then, I drove in the UK. Scotland drives on the other side, and the roads are a full foot narrower than we are used to. The Toyota Avensis Wagon (manual, Diesel, thank you !) had interesting electronics. There was a speed limit sign sensor that would read signs and flash them in your dash board. The many cameras were kindly noted on the factory Nav System. Radio Data System inserted all construction zones and road closures.

    What was very useful was the “lane” reader. It didn’t intervene in the steering, or vibrate, but would beep and/or flash when you were “too close”. Anyone who has driven on “the other side” knows what this means.

    Driving on the wrong side immediately pushed me back to rookie driver, and the gadget was handy. I’m sure in a month I’d shut it off, but for some people, not thrilled to be driving, I see them as quite helpful.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “There was a speed limit sign sensor that would read signs and flash them in your dash board”

      This was one feature I really liked on my rental XC90. I’d do a not-obnoxious pulsing of the speed limit sign on the dash for a bit when it changed and you found yourself going above it or below it on cruise control.

  • avatar
    riggodeezil

    Car companies need to start offering options like an “Old Fart Technology Delete Package” where they strip all of that gee-whiz crap out. Them: “Yowza! Every Camry now comes with standard TSS-P! Wheee! Aren’t you so lucky?” Me: “And yet the base trim doesn’t even have a fuggin’ folding rear seat. Up yers, sonny”. I am so sick and tired of all this useless electronic crap that breaks suddenly and without warning. If my PC does that, I throw it out the top-story window and buy another one. They’re disposable crapola. Not sure how that works with a sub-system in a car (yeah, I know “computers” are everywhere in cars and have been for years but you know what I mean). Regarding the dearth of user-knowledge: How many of these brain-dead morons that don’t know jack about their “tech” also have no clue about the mechanical systems in their cars? We’ve been fine accepting mechanical idiocy for decades so why should “tech” be regarded any different? Unless it’s gonna get them laid or put $ in their pocket the average goob just can’t be bothered.

  • avatar
    wdburt1

    Tech in cars presents a three-way tradeoff between obtrusiveness, benefits, and the risks of distraction and unhealthy dependence.

    IMO, examples of a good tradeoff include cross-traffic sensors to be used when backing out of a parking spot, backup cameras if well implemented, and perhaps blind spot sensors.

    Bad tradeoff: Lane departure systems, unless they can easily be turned on and off (they will unquestionably be useful if you’re driving long distances at night and you’re tired). A special thumbs-down to Honda’s system of insistently nudging the steering wheel.

    Bad tradeoff: Adaptive cruise control. Bad for the reasons cited above, and a high risk of fostering false complacency.

    Bad tradeoff: GPS based speed limit info. One more reason to focus your attention inward rather than at the road ahead.

    Bad tradeoff: Too much info on the dash, like both digital and analog speed. Like real-time fuel mileage bar charts.

    We’re being sold tech as a way to distract us from the sheer ugliness of many new vehicles, poor design (partly a result of industry attempts to comply with CAFE), and cheapened materials. And to justify high prices.

  • avatar
    bubbajet

    Just got a new Accord with all the fancy-schmancy tech stuff on it. I love some of the tech – adaptive cruise control is a wonder, lane assist is OK for short periods on the freeway, and automatic braking has some work left to do (for the false positives which will lead people to turn it off). In the end they’re all good things but there’s a time and a place for using them – and a time and place for NOT using them. At *all* times they need to be monitored. I’ll use the lane assist to get a drink of water or coffee, but it’s failed enough to where I’ll still only do it on a straight-ish, well-marked road. In many cases this new car is harder to drive than the old one – at least mentally and more so in the beginning as I learned to use it. Experience with it has lessened that; I’m now finding it easier in most cases than my old one – although not as fun as the six-speed!

    But to the point of the article: This is the first car I’ve owned where I’ve actually had to read the manual – twice in some sections – so I could understand what the thing was going to do and what it was thinking about. Without reading the manual, it’d be frightening driving one of these things not knowing just what it’s doing, what it’s looking at, and when it’s likely to fail. Knowing the majority of the public just can’t be bothered is the really scary part.

    I’m lucky enough to fly airplanes for a living. We trust the automation, but we’re trained on it and we know it can – and at some point will – fail. We’re ready for it, and we practice it. These driving aids will fail more often and sometimes in unpredictable ways, and if drivers aren’t ready someone will get hurt.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Complacency reduces crash rates. From a safety standpoint, it’s a benefit.

    All of the ideas that appeal to driving enthusiasts, such as advanced driver training and more stringent license requirements, do nothing to improve safety and can even backfire. These things appeal at the gut level, but the research proves otherwise.


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