Almost every new car comes standard with various driver “assistance” technology such as Brake Assist, Lane Keep Assist and Park Assist. New forms of “assistance” propagate with each new model year and sometimes sooner.
It raises questions about people’s competence to drive without such “assistance.”
Especially when such “assistance” becomes unavailable.
Which happens for the same basic reason that you lose the “assistance” of your eyesight when a gnat flies into your eyes. The driver “assistance” tech in all new cars relies on cameras, mounted around the perimeter of the car. What happens when they can no longer see? Because the camera cannot see through fog? Or because the lens is covered by a layer of ice? And the software/programming is stymied by unforeseen conditions?
You no longer have “assistance.”
This has happened to me numerous times, since I drive numerous new cars and often in fog or sleet and snow – as most of us have to do because those conditions obtain out in the real world.
As opposed to the showroom.
Dust and mud do the trick, too. Tall berms by the side of the road (especially in curves) also sometimes do the trick, fooling the camera into “seeing” an obstacle ahead that isn’t really there – or rather, isn’t in the travel path of the vehicle. But not having a mind, the “assistance” tech can’t tell the difference and so “assists” . . . by slamming on the brakes in the middle of the curve.
Or in the middle of the road, for no apparent reason at all.
Such things have happened to me a number of times, in a variety of different cars – so it is not a make/model specific problem. And it happened again, just yesterday, in the ’21 Subaru Crosstrek I am test driving at the moment.
It was very foggy out. I could still see – but the Subaru’s EyeSight system couldn’t. For a variety of reasons, a non-biological eye cannot (yet) see as well as a biological eye in good working order. And some of the non-biological eyes affixed to the exteriors of new cars cannot wipe away a crust of ice or splash of mud, causing them to not see very well, if it all.
And then the “assistance” no longer does.
As happened in the Subaru I was driving – because of the heavy fog. A warning chime sounded, an icon illuminated – to let me know I was no longer being “assisted.”
For those drivers accustomed to such “assistance,” this is arguably dangerous – analogous to an airplane that doesn’t expect the pilot to be able to fly it competently at all times and then sometimes stops flying it for him.
This is interesting given the “assistance” is marketed as a “safety” advance.
Perhaps even more dangerous than a false “assist” – as because of a berm in the curve that the tech confuses with something in the road – is the absence of “assistance,” when a “driver” (finger air quotes for the obvious reason) assumes it will be there to “assist” him . . . and “drives” accordingly. And is following too closely to stop safely when the car ahead brakes suddenly. Our “driver” was texting because he depended on “assistance” to notice the problem and apply the brakes on his behalf but the “assistance” is offline because of fog or some other reason.
The manufactured problem of encouraged inattentiveness. Which of course is what this “assistance” is really all about. The enabling of non-driving.
Who wants to pay attention to the road when an important text just arrived? Lane Keep Assist will “assist”!
And who wants to learn to parallel park when “assistance” will do that for them?
Which gets us to a more profound problem with all of this “assistance”:
Before there was “assistance” drivers had to learn to parallel park a car themselves, without any “assistance.” It was even one of the tests of competence necessary to display in order to qualify for a license to drive. Those who couldn’t do it were presumed – correctly – to be lacking the basic competence necessary to safely drive a car.
Even if not formally tested, the incompetent were self-selected out of the driver’s seat by their own incapacity, whether as regards parallel parking or other basic competencies, such as being able to keep the car they were driving in its lane, without “assistance.”
If not, nature took its course.
Now the incompetent are encouraged to be dangerously fearless. To be oblivious to their own appalling incompetence as drivers. This is enabled and encouraged by the car industry, which has drunk deep of the “safety” Kool Aid, which addresses risk by discouraging competence. Why teach kids not to touch a hot stove? Instead, sell their parents a stove with some kind of barrier or cover and perhaps a sensor and buzzer that eructs when anyone gets near the thing!
It doesn’t matter that the adults know not to touch the stove – having learned what happens if they do – nor that the kids never will learn to be careful around the hot stove.
What matters is that everyone feels “safe.” Even if costs everyone their adulthood.
That seems to be the design ethos at work. Don’t encourage competence – crutch incompetence.
It’s not very “safe.” But it does seem to sell.
Like the “masks” and the shots. It’s all driven by the same disease. This bizarre obsession with “safety” – that puts everyone at even greater risk.
. . .
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