Technology’s killing driving skills
Will people become lazy and lose the ability to physically drive a car?
My driveway is bounded on one side by the neighbour’s driveway with a grass median in between, and on the other side, by our brick house.
An encounter between that unforgiving brick wall that runs 10 metres alongside a portion of the driveway and any vehicle would not be pretty.
The grass median on the other side taunts us. Both my husband and I are pretty stubborn about never letting a tire anywhere near it.
This situation has trained me over the years to meticulously employ side mirrors when reversing. Backup cameras have made this task a bit easier but I still don’t like to rely on the technology alone, no matter how advanced.
This morning, as I’ve done for the past 13 years or so, I look behind the vehicle, check my mirrors, look out the rear window, put the vehicle I’m driving, a 2014 Jeep Cherokee, into reverse and proceed to carefully back out my driveway. Wham-o! The 2014 Jeep Cherokee slams on the brakes. The Jeep and its sensors obviously know nothing about the brick wall that lines one side of my driveway and my obsession with not touching the grass median on the other side with a single tire.
I’m shaken by the brakes being applied on their own. Is there something back there that I missed despite all my checks? Did I hit something? Is someone else besides me driving this vehicle?
I start the reverse process again. The insistent beep warning me that an object is too close begins. I ignore it since I know exactly where that brick wall is.
Again, wham-o! Brakes come on. This happens a total of three times in the 10 metres before I clear the brick wall and continue down the driveway to the road.
I drive away shocked and slightly indignant. Are we giving in to the over-nannying of the driving experience? Are these systems an extension of the ‘helicopter’ parent?
These safety and control systems are not new, and they are fast becoming the norm on all automobiles. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee has an optional $1,795 technology package that includes Advanced Brake Assist, which applies maximum braking power if the driver panic-brakes and doesn’t have the quad-strength of a speedskater should that be required; lane Departure Warning Plus; Auto High Beam Headlamp Control; Forward Collision Warning with Mitigation; and Adaptive Cruise Control.
The system I’m tangling with this morning is the 2014 Jeep Cherokee’s Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection. I recognize the safety aspect of it. The system assumed I was asleep at the wheel when I ignored the strident warning beeps and applied the brakes.
I’m not a technophobe. At times, though, I fear that the technology in vehicles will remove the responsibility of safety from the driver completely. I fear these features will make drivers lazy, reliant on technology and eventually lose the physical ability to drive.
Will new drivers even learn to use their own eyes before changing lanes, before backing up, before avoiding an accident? Will they learn that, should they approach a vehicle too quickly from behind, the vehicle will apply the brakes and come to a complete stop if necessary? Heck, no need to even slow down!
In an Audi A6 a few weeks ago, I was settling in for a night drive from Montreal to Quebec City. At highway speed, I drifted ever so slightly onto the white painted line. I felt the steering wheel yanked by an invisible force, over-correcting to the opposite line, triggering the sensor and causing the steering wheel to auto-correct again. It all happened so fast.
Are we forgetting that driving is a dynamic experience? Will the active process of driving disappear down the evolution drain as we hand over control of driving to the computer, I mean, vehicle?
It’s happening. For the first time in a production vehicle, luxury brand Infiniti has removed the mechanical linkage between the steering wheel and the front wheels in its Q50 sedan. The feature, Direct Adaptive Steering, provides feedback from the road surface and allows the driver to select a preferred steering mode.
Need a parking spot? A Cadillac CTS will find one and park for you. How about vehicles that communicate to maintain safe distance from each other? Drivers chugging along in an autonomous vehicle train can catch up on news on their tablets, update their Facebook status and reply to emails.
As I ponder all of this technology, I realize I’ve been puttering behind a slow-moving Toyota Echo because my Adaptive Cruise Control has adjusted my speed according to traffic in front of me. Somewhat annoyed, I check the passing lane in my mirror and pull out to pass. My vehicle glides back up to the set cruise control speed.
When I get home, my husband lets me know I’m an hour late for our Saturday night date. I tell him: “Impossible! The digital time readout in the vehicle said 6:57 p.m. when I pulled into the driveway.”
He points to the clock on the wall in the kitchen. It’s 8 p.m.
You’d think the clock in the vehicle would have had the decency to adjust to the new time zone when it was delivered from Ontario.