I spent the weekend with the BMW 640d and I realised something. New cars are making us lazy.
The 640d was specced with lane-change and lane-departure-warning systems. So, every time I put my indicator on to do a lane change, the steering wheel would vibrate if there was something in my blind spot. But I should already know that there’s a vehicle there. It’s all part of what you learn when you go for your driver’s licence test. In fact, checking your blind spot is such a major part of the test that you lose quite a number of points every time you forget to do it.
I also recently went on the launch of the new Volkswagen CC. This car comes with fatigue detection as standard. So, if the car senses that you’re nodding off a bit or that your driving has gotten a bit slack since you started your journey, the steering wheel vibrates. But no one should be slacking off behind the wheel. It’s dangerous.
Even cruise control has spoiled us. Previously, you would have had to watch your own speed and monitor your throttle input, but now you can set the cruising speed to just under the national speed limit and go on your merry way. Sometimes, if there’s navigation on your car, it picks up on the speed limit on the road that you’re travelling and warns you; essentially, you don’t need to be aware of it.
There’s also a function on some cars where it monitors the distance between you and the next car and if it senses that you’re getting to close, the car slows itself down. New cars also monitor tyre pressures and oil levels, so we don’t need to do that anymore. Park-distance control means that we don’t need to be as aware of what’s behind or around the car because the car will tell us by beeping, and cars that can parallel park themselves (also a big part of a driving test) means that there’s no big need to master this manoeuvre. Thanks to auto-on and off lights, no one needs to switch their headlamps on when it gets dark or check that they’re off once you park. The same goes for auto wipers.
Some manufacturers are investigating the possibility of a self-driving car, and Volvo is currently in the final stages of its SARTE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) system. SARTE uses specially modified vehicles that make use of cameras and radar-based systems to keep vehicles in the road train seven metres apart in absolute safety up to 90 km/h. Essentially, the driver of the truck heading the train controls the whole platoon and allows the drivers to relax.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that these systems should NOT be in modern cars. I’m simply pointing out that we’re creating a different kind of driver these days. A lazy driver. One who doesn’t need to use his or her brain or simple logic to drive a car. In fact, looking at the way things are going, you won’t even need to be the driver anymore. Your car will simply be a means of transportation that you don’t even need to control. It’s both a sad and scary thought.