Piston Slap: A Hatred of Mandated Safety Systems?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap a hatred of mandated safety systems

TTAC commentator Volvo writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Why is there so much enthusiast hate on electronic driver’s assistance aids such as lane departure warning, blind spot warning, adaptive cruise, front and side cameras, etc?

It reminds me of arguments against seat belts that arose in the ’70s. As a package, these are not that expensive to incorporate into a vehicle (I can retrofit a decent backup camera for less than $50) and perhaps should also be mandated rather than remaining expensive options.

Sajeev answers:

The phrase “not that expensive to incorporate” assumes your price elasticity of demand is a bellwether for everyone in the autoblogosphere. Good luck with that, son!

And backup cameras are now mandatory: considering the price/availability of smartphone cameras, it’s no surprise a dashboard’s multi function screen accommodates one. And if one camera is cheap-ish, incorporating 3 more won’t kill the pocketbook… right?

So the enthusiast hate likely revolves around:

  1. The death by a thousand cuts of added items to a vehicle’s MSRP. Hence the popularity of our Ace of Base series?
  2. The durability of said items when ownership occurs outside the warranty period.
  3. The cost to replace sensors, cameras, modules, wiring, etc. after a collision without insurance. The retail price of these bits ain’t cheap, the days of people paying for repairs out of pocket are numbered if such technology is mandated.

Not knowing the cost of adding seat belts back then, who knows their impact on MSRP relative to hourly wages, then comparing it to our predicament.

Perhaps there’s a better analogy.

Witness the proliferation of (EDIT: 4-wheel) anti-lock braking systems in the USA, from bespoke German bits only available in 1985.5 Lincoln Continentals — sorry 1986 Corvette, you lost by 6 months — to standard equipment on GM vehicles by the mid-90s. GM made a big deal about in-house ABS production, translating into ABS as standard equipment ( until it was not). If you remember every mid-90s Pontiac with “ABS” emblazoned on their center caps, you know it was a big deal.

Perhaps another GM innovation reinforces the argument: how many manufacturers use Magneride shocks after Delphi’s implementation for the Cadillac STS? When someone sets the standard, multiple brands shall line up for the privilege, making for a palatable price for piston heads.

The point: someone’s gonna integrate/reproduce accident avoidance systems on a scale that lowers the price to cheap(ish)… but it’s gonna take time.

[Image: Shutterstock user vasek.x1]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.


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  • JimC2 JimC2 on Dec 07, 2018

    I want a mandatory safety system, integrated with the regular headlights-vs-DRL switch, the hazard light switch, rain sensor, sunlight sensor (the thing that normally biases the air conditioning/automatic climate control on sunny days), vehicle speed sensor, forward and aft looking radar, and a new left lane sensor. This device will either blast the driver with an annoying, deafeningly loud screech or better yet provide real time electro shock therapy to the driver's seat any time the person: - is using their hazard lights in the rain and moving more than 5-10 mph - is holding up the left lane in general - is using their DRLs at night - probably a few other things, including truck drivers who go slower than 2mph under the speed limit in the left lane up a long grade (speaking of trucks, an extra long, punitive shock any time they have a tire blowout) I propose a second generation of this system, one that uses cellular data networks and all car owners' bank accounts. Now hear me out! In addition to the negative reinforcement provided directly at the offending driver, my device would also automatically fine the offender. Wait, I'm not finished. Those funds would be distributed to neighboring motorists' bank accounts. Folks, restitution is a concept as old as human civilization. I believe my safety device, if installed in >90% of all vehicles on the road, could very well relegate road rage to the dustbin of history, make it a distant memory of the early 21st century.

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Dec 08, 2018

    Honestly I think MORE intrusive is probably better for most drivers. A very talkative friend of mine bought a new Subaru Forester with all the safety nannies. We took a road trip and she was constantly talking with her hands, looking over at her audience for validation, etc. The nannies were beeping at her every few seconds to stay in her goddamned lane and she seemed utterly oblivious to them. Don't beep, car, just keep the damn vehicle between the lines. Us Lake Wobegone types, on the other hand --- every one of us an above-average driver --- can just turn 'em off. :-)

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  • Grein002 I hope you meant "take the Ranger out behind the *barn*" rather than "bar". I think something completely different happens "behind the bar".
  • Cprescott Suddenly there is no reason to buy ugly anymore. The Silverdodo is dead. Long live the less hideous Colorado.
  • Cprescott Portable BBQ's for everyone!
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