It operates at the level of an idiot, too.
A skilled/competent driver not only doesn’t need it, he can often outperform it.
Skill and competence, are, however, not what’s wanted. They are the opposite of what’s wanted.
You get what you encourage. And less of what’s discouraged.
The automated braking systems soon to be mandated decelerate the car when it’s either not necessary or so prematurely it’s preposterous. Like there’s an old lady (or a Clover) underneath the dashboard somewhere.
Which of course there kinda is. Joan Claybrook’s ghost, perhaps? An eHarpy you can’t kick to the curb – or turn off.
It engages when the car up ahead (way up ahead) is turning off the road and will be long gone by the time you actually get there. The concept of covering the brake pedal is something a computer does not grok. You, a human (and not an idiot) can evaluate changing conditions in real time with more perspicacity than a computer, which is programmed with limited parameters and does not do nuance. It may become necessary to brake and you are prepared to, if need be.
If not, you don’t.
But the computer will.
This is its own “safety” problem, interestingly enough. Abrupt braking when not necessary can trigger a chain reaction accident. The car behind you rear-ends you because your car braked suddenly and for no good reason. Another car passed within a few feet, say. Or, the light up ahead turned yellow but your car was already in the intersection.
You also lose the ability to power out of a potential problem – and avoid an accident – because the computer has cut the throttle. Which it will, when it applies the brakes for no good reason.
How, pray, is this “safer”?
Sometimes, swerving – and flooring the gas pedal – rather than standing on the brakes – is just what the doctor ordered. But the presumption of incompetence denies this option. Acceleration – evil!
Slowing – good.
The programing of all these “safety” systems is at the level of the most over-cautious/fearful (and not-skilled) driver imaginable. The sort of “driver” (air quotes for the proper emphasis) who slows down on a snow-covered uphill grade. Which is just what computer-controlled traction control does. The dumbed down programming seeks to limit wheel slip at all costs, even if that means losing the momentum critical to making it up the got-damned hill. A good human driver can modulate throttle, countersteer and deal with a little sliding, maintaining momentum … and make it up the hill.
Which is “safer” – the TCS-gimped car stuck by the side of the road – or in the road blocking the way for every other car behind it – or the deftly-driven, human-controlled car that doesn’t get stuck halfway up the hill, in the middle of the road?
The chief virtue of ABS is not decreased braking distances. It is keeping the wheels from locking up so as to avoid loss of steering control. A driver who knows how to drive can decelerate and steer at the same time and not lose control of the car. There are situations (ice) where ABS is useless and also those where it’d be helpful to be able to lock the brakes up briefly.
But, again, the presumption of incompetence. Some are, so everyone must be treated as such in order that they all eventually become such.
Which is why back-up cameras are now mandatory standard equipment in every new car. It is taken as a given that people are too inept to not back over toddlers without computerized hand-holding. So now, rather than using their own eyes – which have depth perception as well as peripheral vision – they rely, oxen-like, on a little TeeVee screen inside the car that has a field of vision much smaller and with no depth at all. But this is – we’re advised – “safer” than simply using one’s eyes and mirrors and maybe checking behind the car before getting in the car that no toddlers are sleeping behind the rear wheels.
Passivity will become the defining characteristic of the land of the once-free and formerly brave.
What is the end game?
Is it to engineer a society of Eloi – simple creatures unable to do anything for themselves? It may well be. And – read your H.G. Wells – where there are Eloi, there are also Morlocks.
It is in the interests of the Morlocks that the Eloi become nice and soft.
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