Today's smarter, safer cars.

If you read my column often, you will know I’m a gadget person.  My home is very automated, turning on and off lights with motion detectors and timers, setting the heat, controlling bathroom floor heat with inputs such as outside/inside temps, time of day and motion in the home. My shades also go up and down on time and temp.  It’s makes my home friendly and inviting. It’s fun to figure it out, wire it and then program it. It’s like a crossword puzzle for a nerd.

A modern vehicle is so complex now, the most complex item that folks own. Some of the more complex vehicles have more lines of programing code then the newer Boeing 787 or Dreamliner!

I have just bought a 2018 vehicle with more “bells and whistles” than any other vehicle I have ever bought. Nice things like heated seats and steering wheel! Oh, so nice in this cold weather. Keyless entry and start, no more digging around in pocket or purse to find your key,  love it. Automatic windows up front, just push a button and release, window goes up or down. Small conveniences but appreciated.

But what I love the most is the advanced safety features my new car has that avoids crashes (accident is not used anymore). Yes, it’s great to have air bags, curtains, pre-tension seatbelts that reduce your injury in a crash but no crash is so much better.

My car has Forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking. Yes, it will stop the car automatically if I don’t.  This has been shown to stop rear end crashes by over 50%.  It has blind-stop warning, a light lights up in the outside rear view mirror if I’m going to change lanes into the path of another vehicle. The next item it has is a lane-departing warning paired with lane-keeping assist. The first will give an audio warning, the second will “nudge” you back in your lane.  My favorite is the rear cross traffic detector. I have a rear camera on my car but even looking at it and turning around, I didn’t see two folks walking in dark clothes at night behind me. I don’t think I would have hit them but was warned well in advance they were there.  

So the great question is why doesn’t everyone “step up to the plate” and upgrade when buying a new vehicle. Yes. It does cost more,  $2,000 to $3,000 for these packages. But, avoid one crash, not injury one person, save one life, $3000 is really not much money in the big picture.  There is another reason that my first employee back in the late 70s brings up. Now Dave is a professional driver, a pilot on a Boeing 777. His comments are “When you add this new safety technology to automobiles, it changes our behavior in how we drive. I think it tends to make people lazy because they feel safer and because they know the technology will save them if they screw up. They then ALLOW themselves to be distracted more, knowing that there’s a system in the car that will cover them. So the result is more distracted, lazy drivers.

I equate it to some of the automation we have in the cockpit. Humans are much better actively involved in something, as opposed to being a monitor. The airlines are spending training dollars trying to teach us to be better passive monitors. After a while we tend to look at everything but not necessarily SEE a subtle change.”

I find this interesting but not so true with me. I know as I age, my “everything” is not as good as it used to be, sight, reaction time and brain function.  I need all the help I can get.

Some people just plain can’t afford it and I well understand that.  I have worked with others that “don’t find it a good value”. Well, I stated above, just having used it once, what a great value. Keep in mind, when the car is sold, it will sell for more with these safety features installed.

The last reason I can think of is distrust of autonomy. There was a Tesla in self driving mode in 2015 that crashed into a white semi-trailer that the camera didn’t “see” Well, the guy was very distracted at the time, maybe even watching a movie and was warned several time to put his hands back on the wheel.

  1. I just love these new features, both safety and convenience that make my travel more enjoyable and safe. I do know that 1000s of lives will be saved over the next decade because of these features. Open your mind and read about these great gadgets being installed in new vehicles. And please read Consumer Reports before buying any vehicle. It’s just plan smart.  

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