Technology and the Skill of Driving

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I attended a conference last week and one of the topics discussed was technology in vehicles. I was flabbergasted at the amount of technology that is in many vehicles today and the kind of technology that is being developed for the future.  The younger generation really doesn’t care about the vehicles or the safety features; what matters to them is the electronics available in those vehicles.  According to the studies, it is the electronic packages that sell vehicles these days.  While it is exciting and amazing how far we have come in technological advances, it is also troublesome to me. I continue to wonder what are we doing to the human capacity to think and do for ourselves.

It really struck me when I was in the restroom and was trying to get the faucet to go on because it had one of those sensors that make the faucet turn on by itself. Of course, it wasn’t working properly or I wasn’t placing my hands in the right place, but I looked over at the woman next to me and said, “I hate these things that are supposed to do things for you. “ While I am sure there is a legitimate argument about hygiene when it comes to turning the water on and off manually, because, of course, the sensors allow the water to turn on without you having to touch anything, but really, “mother I would rather do it myself!” I feel that way when I am typing and all of a sudden the computer starts to correct my grammar or my sentence structure. Personally, I prefer to read and re-read what I have written and make sure it says what I want it to say and how I want to say it. I really don’t want to rely on the technology to do that thinking for me.

I own a driving school that utilizes state of the art technology to assist in the training of novice drivers, so I do not have an aversion to technology – it certainly has its place, but there is a key word I want to highlight, and that is the word ASSIST.   As much as I believe in the power of technology to improve many aspects of our lives, I simply do not believe that technology should replace our ability or capacity “to do” and much more importantly “to think.”  Even in our business, we use the simulation technology to assist in the training process, it does not replace an instructor that interacts and helps a student through the learning process.

There are all types of technology that go into vehicles. The functions range from full entertainment to navigation to safety features. Below are some of the “alphabet soup” safety features that are in vehicles today:

  • ABS – anti-lock braking system. When your wheels lock up on wet and slippery roads or during a panic stop, you may lose traction and control, causing your vehicle to spin. Anti-lock brakes keep your wheels from locking up, so you can maintain directional control around hazards if you can’t make a complete stop in time.
  • Cruise Control – a system that automatically controls the speed of a motor vehicle. The system takes over the throttle of the car to maintain a steady speed as set by the driver. Some vehicles are equipped with ASC – Adaptive Speed Control that has a sensor and will adapt to the speed of the vehicle in front of you.
  • ESC – Electronic Stability Control has been mandated by the government and will be in all 2012 model year vehicles. ESC is a vehicle control system comprised of sensors and a microcomputer that continuously monitors how well a vehicle responds to a driver’s steering input, selectively applies the vehicle brakes, and modulates engine power to keep the vehicle traveling along the path indicated by the steering wheel position. This technology helps prevent the sideways skidding and loss of control that can lead to rollovers.
  • LDWS – Lane Departure Warning System is a mechanism designed to warn a driver when the vehicle begins to move out of its lane (unless a turn signal is on in that direction) on freeways and arterial roads.

Many of these technologies and more are designed to make vehicles safer and/or easier, however, the negative side is over dependence on the technology to correct our errors. It is still important for people to learn to be safe and responsible drivers.   At the end of the day we are still the ones in control of that machine.  Technology is not foolproof, it can fail, and if it does, we need to be able to “do it” on our own.

It is also important to know what your vehicle is equipped with and how the technology works. I hear interesting stories from people who have some of the new technologies in their vehicle and are surprised when something happens that they didn’t expect.  Reading the owners manual is becoming more and more important as vehicles are equipped with more bells and whistles. Unfortunately, when we work with new drivers most of them do not even know what braking system their vehicle is equipped with; while most new vehicles are equipped with ABS brakes, there are some that are not. It is particularly important to know how things work, even entertainment or navigation equipment before you start driving, as it is NOT a good idea to be trying to figure things out while driving.

 

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