Don’t people like driving any more? I’ve seen lots of press releases lately boasting that new cars are just a whisker away from being able to drive themselves.
The Cadillac XTS release said ‘Sensor Fusion is an integral building towards the development of autonomous vehicles’. Sensor Fusion consists of radar, cameras and sensors giving the car an awareness of its surroundings, so it can park itself with minimal input from the driver.
I can understand that Cadillac owners might want a self-driving car – maybe they’re mourning the fact they can’t afford a chauffeur any more, but another release with the same theme was from Nissan. The company was extolling the virtues of its fly-by-wire steering system, which completely eliminates the mechanical connection between the wheel in your hands and the wheels on the road. Sound terrifying to me, but Nissan insists the system will enhance the driving experience and states again “It’s also a big step toward a fully autonomous vehicle.”
Another surprise was the press pack for the Ford Escape compact SUV, which is loaded with so much kit, I’m surprised there’s room on the back for the dog. The pack says: “The all-new Escape is the first Ford SUV to combine class-exclusive technology to automatically slow the vehicle when it’s cornering too fast (Curve Control) or help accelerate through a turn (Torque Vectoring Control); a new Intelligent 4WD System helps deliver outstanding handling on pristine pavement and in adverse conditions as well, along with excellent traction off-road”.
Plus: “Manoeuvring parking lots and traveling open roadways becomes even safer and less stressful with Escape’s sensor-based BLIS® (Blind Spot Information System) with cross-traffic alert. BLIS displays an alert in the side mirror when a vehicle is detected entering a blind spot. Cross-traffic alert warns if traffic is detected approaching from the sides, such as when Escape is leaving a parking space in reverse.”
Wouldn’t a mirror and a look over the shoulder do this?
And it’s not all Yankee motors. The Vauxhall Cascada lists Front Camera System, including Traffic Sign Recognition, Lane Departure Warning, Following Distance Indication and Forward Collision Alert; rear-view camera; Side Blind Spot Alert, plus lots of tech to keep the wheels pointing at the black stuff, despite your best efforts.
What’s the matter with everyone? Haven’t they seen any of the Terminator franchise? Or Battlestar Gallactica? Keep doing this way and cars with self-awareness will rebel! At the very least they’ll refuse to go anywhere but the garage if they fancy a good servicing.
More seriously, though, the most dangerous thing in a car is still the driver, and if that driver feels too comfortable, nothing will remind them not to drive so damned fast. Or not to text inbetween choosing playlists on their integrated stereos or to get angry discussing business deals on their Bluetooth- connected phones. And what happens when they get into a car that doesn’t have any of these things?
I remember someone suggesting that the best safety item might be a spear aimed at the driver’s heart. It concentrates the mind on the task at hand. Maybe I wouldn’t go that far, Personally I think driving is a skill and one you can enjoy, even if you’re not doing doughnuts on a track. It can also keep you safe.
I also hate things that buzz at me. Over-sensitive lane-departure warnings drive me so crazy I’m probably more likely to crash.
Rather than Terminator or BSG, I think of the Hitchhiker’s Guide (as always), and the planet where people threw out all the robots because they were so annoying.
I can’t help thinking, too, about my granddad’s family who all used to pile on a horse and cart to go to the pub. Afterwards they’d all fall back on the cart and the horse took them home. (Although someone inevitably tumbled off and spent a night in the ditch.)
Maybe that’s what people really want. A car that drives while you drink.
This blog is by a woman driver, for everyone to read