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High-tech Cars Replacing Driver Skill?

samzenpus posted more than 8 years ago | from the assisted-parking dept.

Technology 805

Nick writes "What happens when you take a bunch of average drivers, put them in a car with no high-tech systems like anti-lock brakes and traction control, and ask them to drive on a safety test track? 360-degree spins, of course. And not only do today's drivers need ABS and traction control to keep their cars under control, it also turns out most drivers can't even name the high tech safety systems that are continually saving their butts. And to make matters worse, carmakers plan to install automatic radar-based blind-spot checkers so motorists can avoid looking over their shoulders while changing lanes. Even geeks find some of these technologies scary, including Wired's Bruce Gain, who drove Mercedes' S-Class with automatic braking."

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805 comments

who cares? (2, Insightful)

crayz (1056) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452320)

I drove an '89 Celebrity with no ABS or anything other than power steering up until a year ago. You just need to know how to drive the car you're in, not some hypothetical automobile from 20 years ago

Re:who cares? (0, Redundant)

roseblood (631824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452390)

I drove an '89 Celebrity with no ABS or anything other than power steering up until a year ago.

You used to drive the car. Now [in soviet russia?] the car drives you!

Re:who cares? (5, Interesting)

appleLaserWriter (91994) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452457)

I care. I fully expect cars to drive themselves before I become senile enough to have the keys taken away from me.

I consider myself an excellent driver, but recognize that relatively few people care about improving their driving skills. I would much rather they have access to gadgets that prevent them from smashing into me than not.

It would be even better if I could step into my car with a latte, cell phone, and laptop, ask the car to take me to the airport, and read slashdot along the way. My guess is that it will happen within 20 years.

Some work in this area (3, Funny)

Samir Gupta (623651) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452322)

I work in the R&D division of a major Japanese video game corporation. Some members of my research group have been working with major Japanese automakers (whose identity I am not at liberty to discuss at the moment) to apply concepts learned in video game design to driving cars. Instead of a cumbersome set of multiple controls, we are experimenting with a single two-axis controller, one axis controlling acceleration and braking in the up-down direction, and the other controlling steering in the left-right direction. Gear shifting is mapped to the start and select buttons. We're experimenting with a number of control devices, from the Power Glove to GameCube controllers as input effectors.

We believe that this research will lead to much more drivable and intuitively controllable autos, especially for a generation of drivers raised on video games, and will cause fewer accidents on the road, due to the intuitive nature of the control mechanisms and the ingrained neurological psycho-response actuations which have developed from extensive game playing. It will further open up driving to those who may not have all limbs working, but as long as one has thumb control, driving will be accessible to all. I look forward to seeing this coming revolution on the commericial market.

Re:Some work in this area (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14452336)

you're on crack. you don't want multiple control functions situated on one control mechanism because this is a nightmare in a panic situation.

Re:Some work in this area (1)

HermanAB (661181) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452351)

GM built a joystick controlled automatic Cadillac about 40 years ago. They found it awkward to drive and scrapped the project.

Re:Some work in this area (1)

JanneM (7445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452408)

SAAB did as well about ten years ago (before they sold the car division to GM). It apparently worked well, but it was decided that user resistance would probably prevent it from being accepted, other than for disabled drivers.

Re:Some work in this area (2, Insightful)

Osty (16825) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452356)

we are experimenting with a single two-axis controller, one axis controlling acceleration and braking in the up-down direction, and the other controlling steering in the left-right direction.

Ack! Please, no! I hate it when games put acceleration and braking on the same axis. Please don't do that to real cars. If I can't hit the brake and throttle at the same time, how am I supposed to heel-and-toe downshift (don't tell me to drive an automatic, or a sequential manual) or trail-brake (okay, not on public roads :)? Throttle and brake are independent inputs, and should be treated as such.

Re:Some work in this area (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14452397)

Get a life and stop watching Initial D

Re:Some work in this area (1)

roseblood (631824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452414)

In addition to your race-boy reasons I have a big one.

If you push a joystick forward to activate the brakes or the gas, and you pull to active whatever isn't activated by the push you have a BAD problem.

Imagine heavy braking used in the process of an emergency stop (jay-walker, car in neighborlanes prevent emergency lane-change.)

Your momentum pushes you forward. Your seatbelt MOSTLY holds you in place. Your arms being un-belted will move forward to some extent (based on strength, anticipation of decceleration forces, strength of deceleration forces, "oh shit brace for impact factor" as you stiffen your limbs and brace against the steering wheel(now a stick.))

That forward push your arm makes will either make you apply more brakes (no big deal with ABS and if no-one is going to rear-end you) or you will apply less braking force (or worse yet, go so far as to get back off the brake entirely and end up back on the accelerator.) Now we have unintentional activation of a vital vehicle saftey and control system durring an actual stressful emergency. Things just got more complicated and a j-walker is about to get splatted.

Re:Some work in this area (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452421)

Grand Prix Legends driver here.

I'm with you. Wheel and pedals beats joystick, ummmmmmmm, hands down.

However, there are times when one might heel and toe downshift without using the brake at all. The brake is most often the reason for it, but it is not actually part of it.

I'm not at all sure why you object to trail braking on public roads either. Perhaps you have one of the common misconceptions of what that actually is.

Trail braking simply means easing off the brake while turning. In fact, it's far safer to do on public roads at road speed than it is on a track at racing speed. I highly recommend it as it keeps the car, and thus the passengers in the car, more settled than doing all the braking in a straight line and then creeping around the corner at constant speed.

Brake into, accelerate out of corners is just the way to do it. Even my Granddad in his Model T understood that.

KFG

Re:Some work in this area (1)

iainl (136759) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452405)

Meanwhile, I've stopped buying racing games on any console other than the PS2, because I love my steering wheel setup too much to go back to playing on a pad where there's no fine control.

Driving seems so easy on a pad normally (though start and select are the worst places I've ever heard anyone suggest for the gears; either triggers or preferably OutRun 2's cunning use of the right analogue stick please) because the game puts tonnes of simplifying stuff between you and the vehicle.

Re:Some work in this area (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14452424)

Will it also include the useful video game feature of being able to drive into a wall at 100mph without causing injury or serious damage to the car?

Horribly bad idea. (5, Insightful)

raehl (609729) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452447)

One of the things that makes a steering wheel a good control input for a car is that in order to make large changes in what your car is doing, you have to make large changes in the control input. Want to floor the car? You have to STOMP the gas peddle. What to stop SUDDENLY? You have to STOMP the brake. Want to make a SHARP turn? You have to turn the wheel at least a half ref, often up to 2 revs for really sharp, and almost a quarter for a turn that will induce a skid at highway speed before you have a chance to correct it.

There's also a reason your acceleration and braking are controlled by your feet - because your leg muscles are stronger than your thumb muscles. You can't have your acceleration/braking controlled by a non-resistive joystick, because it'd just be too easy to sneeze/drop your coffee/knock it with your elbow and have sudden acceleration or braking. You need pretty stiff resistence to prevent accidental input. Now can you imagine driving for an extend period of time using your thumb muscles instead of your leg muscles?

Even on vehicles that have throttle controls (like planes and boats), the throttle is a separate input device, has a large range of motion, and the vehicle being controlled usually experiences INFREQUENT velocity changes.

massive stupidity (3, Interesting)

NuShrike (561140) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452474)

You guys need to go back to school and research why joystick controls of the first cars were abandoned. It's something called IMMUNITY to G-Forces and vibration from a bumpy and rocky road as well as other situations. The game floor is VERY different from a real road ride. Then there's the aspects of having independent controls such as accelerator and brake. This is the same for bicycles and for them scooters for the handicapped.

There's a reason why some rally cars have independent front/rear braking pedals. Sure that may be not an everyday example, but it's still more representative than trying to reinventing the controls from the unreality of video games.

Unless you are flying/floating like a plane, it is pointless to try to reinvent the wheel with controls of such low resolution and fidelity controlled by sub-par limbs of coordination, the thumbs.

The reason for accidents on the road happens to be more a direct result of poor driver competance than from poor controls. If you eliminate any driver that can't pass the B-license driver's test from Gran Turismo (1-4) at the level most drivers are subjected to in Europe or Japan, THEN can you start thinking about if the controls are an issue.

Sometimes, people are just not meant to drive.

Re:Some work in this area (0, Offtopic)

Troed (102527) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452494)

Moderators - Samir Gupta is a known troll. Nothing in the parent post is correct - "Power Glove" is the giveaway. Moderate down (I can't - I'm one of those who never gets mod points anymore)

FRIST POSTTTTTTTTT (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14452323)

AKFDFH I WIN
i iwn
i win
i
Drivers increasingly take for granted the technologies that keep their car under control in dangerous situations, according to a new study. Fewer than 30 of those questioned in a recent survey knew what anti-lock brakes were, and less than 5 percent understood traction control. To test some skills of the average driver, the U.K.'s Times newspaper brought along a 15-year-old BMW 3-series devoid of every modern safety feature and asked some regular drivers to take it through the test track at the Graham Griffiths of Ultimate Car Control training school. While all the drivers were able to drive their modern Volvos, Hondas, and Subarus successfully in all conditions, they failed when forced to drive the classic car. "Even these self-confessed petrolheads were unable to control their cars without the aid of ABS." And without traction control, many of the drivers "swung about wildly," heading into Drivers increasingly take for granted the technologies that keep their car under control in dangerous situations, according to a new study. Fewer than 30 of those questioned in a recent survey knew what anti-lock brakes were, and less than 5 percent understood traction control. To test some skills of the average driver, the U.K.'s Times newspaper brought along a 15-year-old BMW 3-series devoid of every modern safety feature and asked some regular drivers to take it through the test track at the Graham Griffiths of Ultimate Car Control training school. While all the drivers were able to drive their modern Volvos, Hondas, and Subarus successfully in all conditions, they failed when forced to drive the classic car. "Even these self-confessed petrolheads were unable to control their cars without the aid of ABS." And without traction control, many of the drivers "swung about wildly," heading into

Unrealistic test (1, Insightful)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452369)

I have been driving cars with ABS for the last 20 years. I drive every day. Apart from a Peugeot that had the ABS engage any time you took a sharp corner at low speed, I have had the ABS come on three times.

If the ABS comes on then you are driving in a manner likely to endanger life. Most probably your own!

The same applies to traction control. Off the race track, hardly anyone would ever encounter a situation where traction control is needed. Driving on the streets is not like a race track. Nor is it like a video game. I was recently persuaded to try a video racing game by my son. His lap time was 1/3 of mine, but he bumped into all sorts of things that would have cost 1000s to repair in a real car. Persuading kids that "driving a car is just like the video game" will cost a LOT of lives. Far more lives are lost from car crashes than terrorism already. Pretending cars are like video games is more dangerous than Al Quaieda, and no more sensible.

Re:Unrealistic test (1)

Combas (776699) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452398)

Actually, I had my ABS come on once when I was driving normally and it almost caused an accident.

I was driving slowly down a steep hill in the rain (no choice really) when I came to the stop sign at the bottom I increased the pressure on the breaks to stop the vehicle. As I said, the road was wet which caused my tires locked up for just a fraction of a second but it was enough for the ABS to kick in which caused all the presure to leave my break petal and the petal sank to the floor and I started to actually increase in speed.. it wasnt a busy intersection but if I hadn't managed to stop I would have been hit or hit someone else 100%.

But apparently my ABS were working fine when I had them checked out, and that was considered a normal response to the situation. Yearh right...

Try a gravel road and an early ABS for size. (1)

robbak (775424) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452493)

This was a big problem for early ABS systems, especialy here in Australia, with lots of gravel roads. Braking on dirt involves the wheels sliding in the gravel, biting through the surface to gain traction, evin in normal, slow-down-for-the-corner stuff. Many people had to get the ABS disabled, because they simply couldn't stop the car. When finaly introduced in a locally built car, they readjusted the ABS to allow the wheels to slide somewhat before activating. They also had to make it work POLA when on wheel was on bitumen, and the other on gravel: a common thing around here. Oh, and everyone with an ABS car should do an panic stop on a deserted road sometime, so they know what it feels like before the really need it.

Re:Unrealistic test (2, Interesting)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452401)

A friend of mine had it come on recently. He was behind an old guy when a light turned yellow. It saved his ass but it was the first time he'd ever seen it work. Lots of people are so surprised by the ABS when it comes on for the first time that they unconsciously release the brake.

automatic breaking? (2, Insightful)

novastar123 (540269) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452325)

yeah, thats going to be real popular, untill there is a sensor malfunction and you take out the little old lady in the pinto stationwagon. Those would have to be out for a few years before, and open source, before Id even begin to trust them.

Re:automatic breaking? (1)

bubulubugoth (896803) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452349)

You could say the same about ABS, AWD and any other car technology out there...

And, furthermore, these are AIDS, not replacement...

also, cars get a lot of testing and stressing...

Maybe what we will need is self testing system, that tell us if one system goes down, much alike an airplane cockpit.

Or shall I suppose you dont travel at all?
Planes, Ships, Modern Trains also have a lot of electronics aids...

Re:automatic breaking? (0)

masklinn (823351) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452363)

And, furthermore, these are AIDS

Enjoy them !

This begs the question... (3, Funny)

Slackrat (128095) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452328)

Did drivers ever really have skills in the first place?

Re:This begs the question... (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452379)

Judging by the retard that tried to drive me off the road trying to get to his exit yesterday, or the dumb bitch in an SUV who tried to drive me off the road because she didn't check for traffic before changing lanes a couple weeks ago, or the idiots doing 45mph in a 60mph zone, or the sickos who have to slow down to look for dead bodies when they come upon an hours-old wreck site, I'd have to say no. Emphatically, without qualification, no! People just don't know how to drive! Never have, never will.

Maybe it's just where I live. We get a lot of rain, but nobody really knows how to drive in it. They slow down way too much, or they continue to drive way too fast. But the best was this morning. We had a break after several weeks of constant rain. The sun actually came out. What did people do? They slowed down! Apparently two weeks of driving in the rain made them forget how to drive when it's dry and sunny! Idiots!

Re:This begs the question... (2, Interesting)

skreeech (221390) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452522)

After long periods of rain the sun comes out and the rain is gone but any oil or gas that has dripped onto the road the whole time it has been raining sticks there. The day after a long time of rain can be almost as bad as in the rain for braking. Maybe you live around shitty drivers or maybe overly cautious ones but there can be reasoning for it.

Short answer: NO (1)

hummassa (157160) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452502)

Long answer: Absolutely not. And this (high-tech cars compensating for the lack of driving skill) is GOOD, because the average driver can spin a car on a safety test car even if the car has ABS and stuff. Actually, I think that if cars ever become fully automated, Minority Report style, we will have a lot less car accidents (*), and we'll take a lot less time to commute.

(*) And I'd take a bet that 99% of the car accidends would be caused by human failure (even if it's failure to properly maintain the vehicles.)

Fear (1)

xziz (643887) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452330)

I really don't see why anyone would be afraid of new vehicle technologies. It's simply going to remove all the annoying things that we've grown used to do but will no longer have to burden ourselves with.

One that wasn't mentioned here: (3, Informative)

Phariom (941580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452335)

There are few automobiles out there (mainly SUVs) that now have systems installed to let you know if you are leaving the lane via a photo-sensor connected to an alarm inside the vehicle. After all, why should we expect drivers to keep their *!@?% car in their own lane without the aid of a computer? Here's an article [autoblog.com] that goes perfectly with the theme of this post.

Re:One that wasn't mentioned here: (1)

Phariom (941580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452367)

I forgot to mention an auto manufacturer where this feature is now available. Here you go. [infiniti.com]

Re:One that wasn't mentioned here: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14452404)

I assume the crack about the SUVs was a joke then?

Re:One that wasn't mentioned here: (1)

Phariom (941580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452412)

Yes. Yes it was. But well deserved, no?

Re:One that wasn't mentioned here: (2, Insightful)

Walkiry (698192) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452425)

>After all, why should we expect drivers to keep their *!@?% car in their own lane

Are you being purposely dense or were you born an idiot? This system, just like other safety systems in the car, is made to prevent dangerous situations. The beeping, in fact, is to wake the driver up in case he falls asleep. It doesn't happen often, but it does, and the fact that this device can and will prevent accidents from happening is the whole point of the system and a reason good enough for it to exist. After all, why should we expect drivers not to crash and kill themselves? That's why we have belts and airbags, and they're obviously unnecessary because anyone who knows how to drive shouldn't crash.

Re:One that wasn't mentioned here: (2, Funny)

Phariom (941580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452436)

...anyone who knows how to drive shouldn't crash.

Exactly! Thank you, Darwin.

What about when the systems fail? (2, Informative)

themysteryman73 (771100) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452337)

These systems are good for average drivers, but if they don't even realise that they're constantly being helped by them, one must wonder what happens when the systems finally fail.

Re:What about when the systems fail? (1)

tuxette (731067) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452361)

one must wonder what happens when the systems finally fail.

You (or the ones you leave behind) call a good lawyer...

Re:What about when the systems fail? (1)

HermanAB (661181) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452396)

Yeah well, there are lots of things in a car that can fail and lead to a crash. The addition of some electronics doesn't make a car fundamentally different.

Re:What about when the systems fail? (2, Insightful)

roseblood (631824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452443)

Except you now have an additional set of potential points for failure in a system many will come to rely upon to keep themselves safe. There's alot of evdience(go google it) that suggests people drive faster knowing they have ABS,APRS,SC[stability control],TC[traction control],etc. to help them drive (and survive accidents in the case of Active Passenger Restrain t Systems[airbags].)

Let's hope this is optional.. (3, Insightful)

lightyear4 (852813) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452339)

..i LIKE to drive. Sometimes helpful systems that assume control take all the fun out of things.

Re:Let's hope this is optional.. (1)

Ours (596171) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452402)

Maybe making driving safe is more important then keeping driving fun. There are places you can go and drive funly (racetracks, go karts, bumper cars). I don't want my daily train-ride to be fun, I just want to get there safe and fast.

Re:Let's hope this is optional.. (2, Insightful)

DigitalWar (864198) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452533)

My car (I'm a student) is pretty much just an engine and brakes on 4 wheels. Manual transmission, no ABS, no traction control, no power steering, not even a radio. And I can tell you, I'm not the one in the damned minivans cutting people up on the damned roundabouts. *mutters*

I DON'T like to drive (1)

Atario (673917) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452464)

It's dull downtime.

The more automatic, the better. My ideal car is where I hop in, say "take me to work" (or wherever), then I'm free to do whatever till we get there, at which point there's a pleasant "ding" sound, I look up, and see that I'm parked in the best available spot at my destination.

Ah, bliss...

Re:I DON'T like to drive (3, Funny)

Tim C (15259) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452473)

There's a system available that allows you to do that now - it's called a chaffeur. I believe the "ding" sound is an optional extra, though.

I DO like to drive, but... (1)

hummassa (157160) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452517)

You are absolutely right.
In the 20 minutes I take to commute, I could be reading something, /.ing, etc.
In the 4 hours that takes to go to granny, I could be playing with my 7yo son, or tending my newborn daughter, or mellowing with the wife, or even taking a nap... instead of ducking trucks and potholes (*).

(*) Down here, there are practically ZERO cargo/passenger trains. As a result, and due to the fact that we are an enourmous country (bigger than continental USofA), all interstate cargo and passenger traffic is on the roads, on trucks and buses... and this causes an enourmous strain on our roads, that are horrible because of that.

Re:Let's hope this is optional.. (2, Informative)

Splab (574204) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452510)

Well I think peoples skills are dependent on where they learn to drive. Here in Denmark it's mandatory to pass a "glatføre kursus" (a course on how to drive under slippery circumstances).
The cars used have their ABS and tracktion control disabled, so most new drivers here should know how to handle the car.

Re:Let's hope this is optional.. (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452512)

I guess that you didn't read the article, since it's talking about how modern cars, that are are already on the market, with features that people normally use, are making people worse drivers.

One of the comments on the actual article was that it was most likely that the people driving just didn't know how to drive RWD cars, which are a bit different to drive.

So, if anti-lock brakes, power-steering, automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive bother you, then, yes, I can direct you to modern cars that don't have most of those things, except maybe the anti-lock breaks and power-steering. Are you sure that you mind those?

A Study Without Perspective... (5, Insightful)

aluminumcube (542280) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452340)

This "study" is big-time BS for the simple reason that the typical road-going driver has NEVER been able to pilot a vehicle safely through these sorts of dog-n-pony show tests which is why all of these technologies got invented in the first place.

Seriously, the people doing this study actually think that your typical driver facing a panic situation somehow had the foresight to remember some verbal instruction back from a high school driver's ed class about "Cadence Breaking" before ABS was a standard feature? Or that drivers from as little as 10 years ago had the sort of skid-pad training required to drill in the muscle memory and experience necessary to control a car in an understeer/overseer situation? No way; it was the inability for the typical driver to control a vehicle in these circumstances that led to hundreds of millions of dollars of automotive industry investment in these technologies.

I see what the study is getting at and it is a point that any rational person will agree with; drivers need better skill training. Telling people which way to move the wheel in a spin or how to massage the break pedal out of a textbook (or even on a video) is a useless substitute to making a student actually experience car control and build the muscle memory actually required to apply those skills in a high stress situation. At the same time, rational people also realize that nobody will ever invest the billions of dollars necessary in the sort of meaningful driver education on a skidpad and through static exercises.

Given our inability (through unwillingness of lack of funds) to train drivers, I believe that the technologies we've put on the typical passenger car are pretty amazing.

At the same time, the biggest contributing factor to accidents is simply the fact that people don't pay very much attention. Even with all of the idiot drivers on the road and the noted lack of car control skill, the overwhelming majority of accidents are totally avoidable. Unfortunatly, doing so requires the typical driver to have situational awareness above that of a rock...

In soviet russia.... (1)

ThndrShk2k (805287) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452352)

what?

It's common knowledge that noone knows howto drive. The thing that scares us the most is people driving cars upside-down and not dieing due to new safety features.
Respect Darwin and his laws, or be punished accordingly by certain death.

Granted if.... the cars drive you we'd be alot less worried :O

What's the relevance? (4, Insightful)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452357)

People learn the skills appropriate for their lives. Do I know how to castrate a bull or build a replacement wooden wheel for my Conestoga wagon? No, because I'm not a settler living in the early 1800's.

Why not an article that asks the same questions about medical technology? Does the fact that we have made advancements in heart repair, diagnostics, medicines and more somehow indicate that people today are weaker or dumber than those of ten years ago?

Correlation != Causation, yet that seems to be what this article is obliquely suggesting.

If you buy their premise, then go ask some pirates about global warming, they have strong opinions regarding its affect on their trade.

In other news... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14452360)

High-tech planes replacing pilot skills
High-tech seat belts replacing stuntman skills
High-tech calculators replacing math skills
High-tech screwdrivers replacing screwing your freaking wrist to death skills
High-tech phones replacing screaming really loud skills
High-tech shovels replace digging dirt with your fingers skills
High-tech whining replaces err.... wait... no people are as good at that as ever

this is no surprise. (1)

Combas (776699) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452365)

If you havent been on the road lately, heres an update for you: People are fricken idiots.

You would think stuff like automatic blindspot checkers, or abs, or traction control, or auto breaking wouldn't be nessisary but they totally are.

DONT BELIEVE ME? Go drive for yourself in a major metropolitan area for a day.

ps. The real reason I know there are a lot of bad drivers out there is because I am one, so there.

Re:this is no surprise to anyone. (1)

robbak (775424) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452462)

Yep! And let's be thankfull for the electronic goodness they do have.
A few weeks ago I was driving through Cairns, NQ, Australia (and I know that doesn't quite qualify as 'CITY', but never mind), pulled up at some traffic lights, heard a kind of bump behind a few seconds later, and a car parked itself in the shrubbery beside me. Yes, I am thankfull that he had ABS beneath his left foot, or I'd have had an uncomfortable evening. (He beached himself in the pinebark mulch, by the way. For all I know he might still be there.)

No. I'm all for whatever goodies the engineers can give us. Road casualties have fallen ( in per distance travelled terms) as far as they are going too, for as long as humans remain in charge of cars. Give them (and me!) as much help as you can.

It's easier than that (2, Interesting)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452515)

Go to a super market car park, stand near the road, and just watch the drivers for half an hour.

You'll never want to be on the road again after the display of universal incompetence you'll see. I had to do this as part of my motorcycle training in the UK, and getting on the bike again was a severe brown trousers moment.

Definently (1)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452373)

I've been driving under my wife's supervision for two years, have recently taken some lessons before I take my test (finally), and moving to a 'modern' car has been a nightmare. Everything is controlled, or powered, and it's taken some time to master it after driving a 'normal' car for so long.

On the plus side, I've been told I drive better than most people who've passed their test....

The one feature I want... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14452383)

I need a "get the &#^$ out of my way" button that works on the self-absorbed asshole yapping on his cellphone while driving his enormous SUV 52 in the 65 passing lane and backing up traffic for a mile behind him! I push the button, he moves his ass over and life goes on.

Well, I guess a rocket launcher would do, too.

Re:The one feature I want... (1)

Teiresias_UK (413251) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452442)

In the UK. it'd be something to make the w*&ker doing 55 in the middle lane move over, as we're not supposed to undertake ... I've seriouly thought about rigging a big assed LED screen in the rear window of the car so I can politely these people MOVE!

Re:The one feature I want... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452490)

Well, I guess a rocket launcher would do, too.

You'd need something with a very high temperature and low explosive yield, which would be difficult. Perhaps something like an autocannon with thermite-tipped rounds might be a better choice - you need to vaporise the target without leaving anything big or sharp enough to cause an obstruction to your vehicle, and without hitting you with the blast.

On second thoughts, if you were carrying that much energy in your car then it might be simpler and easier to just fly over the car causing the obstruction.

Machine Learning (1)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452385)

Have any researchers considered carefully measuring the driving behaviour of cabbies, etc. (possibly by equipping cabs with gps/black box devices) and trying to distill useful information from this?

If cabbies were bad drivers, you'd expect they would wreck more often than usual. If they were exceptionally good, you'd expect better driving, hence good data on which to base your automated driving models.

To do this, you'd have to install monitoring equipment into a significant fraction of cabs in a given city, so that you can get a useful amount of interaction data when they are near other monitored vehicles.

I hate ABS...sometimes (1, Insightful)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452389)

I have two vehicles, one is a 20 year old sports car and the other is a 13 year old SUV. My SUV had ABS brakes. When I need to stop NOW like someone cutting out in front of me, I hate them because if I slam on the brakes the ABS kicks in and I don't stop. However, in my car when there's snow on the road just tapping the brakes can lead to a loss of control.

ABS does shorten stopping distances on wet or snow covered roads, but if the road is dry, the stop time will be much shorter if the wheels lock and you skid.

What I would like to see is a steering wheel mounted kill switch for ABS. I know when I need to maintain control and I know when it's more important to lock the wheels.

LK

Re:I hate ABS...sometimes (1)

ForestGrump (644805) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452411)

To kill the ABS, atleast in some of the older Hondas (like early 90s), pull the park brake up a few clicks, and drive a short distance. The ABS light will come on and deactivate ABS. Volia! Worked in my dad's 91 legend.

Another way is to pull the fuse for ABS (I've never tried this one).

Grump

Re:I hate ABS...sometimes (1)

roseblood (631824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452427)

pssssssssssst... the Legend is an Accura.

PS: I know Accura is a wholy owned subsiduary of Honda (even if I can't spell it.)

Re:I hate ABS...sometimes (4, Informative)

erlando (88533) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452459)

ABS does shorten stopping distances on wet or snow covered roads, but if the road is dry, the stop time will be much shorter if the wheels lock and you skid.

ABS is not designed to make the car stop faster. ABS is designed to enable the driver to maintain maximum control over the car while breaking. ABS Q&A [dot.gov] . If you skid you don't steer. Though I don't think ABS makes the stopping distance longer so I don't see the need for your proposed kill-switch. Please don't use it if driving behind me..

Also take into consideration that the development of ABS just might have improved it in the last 13 years..

I would take my 2005 Skodas ABS, EDS and ESP Electronic Stability Programme over unassisted braking anyday.

Re:I hate ABS...sometimes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14452463)

ABS does shorten stopping distances on wet or snow covered roads, but if the road is dry, the stop time will be much shorter if the wheels lock and you skid.

Arghh, you should have your drivers license revoked.

Re:I hate ABS...sometimes (5, Informative)

49152 (690909) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452467)

>if the road is dry, the stop time will be much shorter if the wheels lock and you skid.

This is simply not true. Dynamic friction (skidding) is lower than static friction.

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/brake4.htm [howstuffworks.com]

Re:I hate ABS...sometimes (1)

rannala (876724) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452508)

However, in my car when there's snow on the road just tapping the brakes can lead to a loss of control. ABS does shorten stopping distances on wet or snow covered roads, but if the road is dry, the stop time will be much shorter if the wheels lock and you skid.

I agree. In my experience, even on slippery conditions locking the wheels is not neccessarily a bad thing. The car stops faster, a physical fact. Without ABS you can just manually unlock the wheels for a split second if the car starts to turn (or you want to steer clear of something), you just have to be quick. This is in fact the opposite they told me in driving school, but seems to work anyway.

What I'd want is an ABS system that unlocks the wheels only when you are trying to steer during braking or the car starts to turn sideways. And does that quicker than me.

Re:I hate ABS...sometimes (1)

kop (122772) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452511)

The most important factor in break distance is the mass of the vehicle. It might be that the difference in mass between your sports car and the SUV accounts for the difference in breaking.

Often skidding is caused by other factors such as oil or dirt on the road. At high speeds ABS will allways lead to shorter stopping distances and more predictible behaviour when breaking.

Re:I hate ABS...sometimes (2, Informative)

Destructo-Bot (794990) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452527)

1.ABS does shorten stopping distances on snow covered or 2.wet roads, 3.but if the road is dry, the stop time will be much shorter if the wheels lock and you skid.

First part is not true, second part and third part is slightly more true as written by you. ABS can actually lengthen stopping on snow covered roads due to the fact that locked tires build up snow dams in front of them that can stop a car quite abruptly. When ABS kicks in the tires roll and break the dam apart increasing stopping distance.

For part 2 and 3, while stopping distances may be slightly increased (but not really significantly) your tires will not lock and you will maintain control of the vehicle.

The point of ABS is NOT in anyway related to stopping distance. It's function is to give you steering control during panic breaking.... allowing you to break as hard as is possible while still being able to steer. Computer controls can be better at some things then us meatbags can... and this is one of them.

I do however agree that cars should include toggle switches for these functions. I've had good need to switch off my traction control at times, and I could think of reasons to turn off ABS as well.

Re:I hate ABS...sometimes (1)

cecom (698048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452529)

What I would like to see is a steering wheel mounted kill switch for ABS. I know when I need to maintain control and I know when it's more important to lock the wheels.

Good for you. I don't. Do you want to bet who between the two of us falls in the 90% percentile ? :-)

Be well John Spartan (1)

gingerTabs (532664) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452391)

It seems that with smarter cars, less willingnesss to take risk, the world described in Demolition man is becoming real :( /me jumps down the nearest manhole

Great (1)

snakattak (592921) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452393)

This is great news. That means less drivers will hit ME on the road. Seriously, who cares if people can't drive, I don't think people ever really learn how to drive. So what if these technologies give bad drivers a better chance of not hitting anyone on their way to work.

I'm on the waiting list for the new S-Class (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14452400)

Being a Mercedes owner, I am always aware of the lengths Mercedes has gone to innovent with new safety technologies that eventually trickle down to everyday cars. However, no matter how many driving schools I go to, no driver ever assumes the car will drive itself. These are bit of technology here to ASSIST but to never REPLACE the driver. The 2007 S-Class offers the ability for its rader-based cruise control to completely stop the car if necessary but as usual the story summary is bunk. WHoever is using or testing these devices as a full replacement for braking are complete idiots. A recent test in Germany showed that the system can fail. With that said, my order for a new S550 is already into the dealer and my car will be here in a few weeks. Hopefully the large amount of money necessary to purchase the car will make the entry of the usual idiot drivers into this space a moot point.

Bullshit test... (2, Insightful)

evilviper (135110) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452413)

This test is pure bullshit. The only thing it proves is that people don't instantly adapt. If you had done the opposite, taking drivers accustomed to older cars and putting them in a new car with high-tech safety features, they'd fail all the same...

ABS is a very good example. When it came out, it was causing a large number of accidents. People accustomed to standard brakes would continue their "cadence-braking" techniques on their new ABS-equiped vehicles, and would therefore be unable to stop.

Even though people are accustomed to it now, I personally dislike ABS because of the trade-offs made... It is a system that assumes that less braking ability is okay, provided you are still able to steer. That make be true a lot of the time, but not always. When you have to slam on your brakes, but you still roll into an accident, you can thank ABS for that...

Re:Bullshit test... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14452498)

While I can't say this is wrong, I can say from my personal experience that this was never the case.
I have driven cars ranging from antiques/classics owned by family friends, to brand new top end imports, and sports cars. I learned to drive in an old crown victoria. The safety features were the horn, and the seatbelts. My first time driving any car with antilock brakes was in the winter, during a snow storm. I never really had a problem stopping the ABS equipped car, but I will say that I could stop my '85 conversion van with standard brakes (drum rears and disc front), or my '84 monte carlo (similarly equipped) better in the snow than the car with ABS. The only exception to this was in the monte carlo, when I first purchased the car, because the tires had virtually no tread left. What little tread the tires had became strips of ice while trying to drive..then the car slides a lot.

Technology will help, but I feel people need to pull their ABS fuses, and learn how to control their
vehicles with 'conventional braking'. What happens to these people who rely on the ABS system, and the ABS system fails due to a chafed or corroded wire, or a broken harness clip, or faulty wheel sensor? ABS sensors can and do fail, and they cause accidents because the people can't react when the car no longer stops with the aid of the computer.

I disable ABS on everything that I drive at least once, and if it works better for me, I leave it off.

Big deal (1)

typical (886006) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452415)

What happens when you take a bunch of average drivers, put them in a car with no high-tech systems like anti-lock brakes and traction control, and ask them to drive on a safety test track? 360-degree spins [CC], of course. And not only do today's drivers need ABS and traction control to keep their cars under control, it also turns out most drivers can't even name the high tech safety systems that are continually saving their butts.

In other news, a typical teenager can neither properly operate nor name the components in a horse and buggy.

It's a waste of time to train humans to manually perform tasks like complicated braking. The fact that screwing it up risks an (expensive) human life makes this even worse. Elimination of useless work is the main goal engineers have. I don't see this as a loss.

Re:Big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14452487)

In other news, a typical teenager can neither properly operate nor name the components in a horse and buggy.

Are you sure? I imagine the two components of a horse and buggy would be fairly self-evident.

Re:Big deal (1)

cperciva (102828) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452503)

In other news, a typical teenager can neither properly operate nor name the components in a horse and buggy.

That's unfair. Most teenagers could name the horse. Probably something like "Bob" or "George".

no punchcard skill == computer illiterate! (4, Insightful)

batkiwi (137781) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452423)

What does this prove? See subject for an easy analogy.

My fun/backup car is a 1977 honda civic, complete with manual choke. It takes an act of god to start it, but I have JUST the nack to get it every time. Most people getting into the car wouldn't have any idea what a manual choke is.

Does this mean that anyone who can't start it is not skilled at starting modern day cars? ... ...

Ask your typicall 747 pilot to jump into a spitfire and fly 500km.

You see where I'm going. It's like programmers bitching about no one knowing assembler any more, when no one apart from serious system optimizers (or race car drivers....) need to know it.

Re:no punchcard skill == computer illiterate! (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452519)

Ask your typicall 747 pilot to jump into a spitfire and fly 500km.

Not a good analogy. Most 747 pilots started out on light aircraft before moving up to boring planes. It only took me about an hour or two of flight time between getting in the pilot's seat (of any plane) for the first time and flying aerobatics in something with handling characteristics similar to a spitfire (smaller engine, and a bit more stable, but not far off), and I wasn't particularly unusual in this. Now, expecting a 747 pilot to be much use taking a spitfire into a dogfight might be a bit much.

Re:no punchcard skill == computer illiterate! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14452536)

It wasn't necessary to know it (outside of the classroom) when we had to learn it in school. But we did, so now the younger masses must experience the joy that is assembly too.

Speaking of S-Class auto brakes... (2, Informative)

Chicane-UK (455253) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452426)

Reminds me of this story [pistonheads.com] I read about a month or two back - Mercedes took three shiny new S-Class's with this automatic braking system to a facility to demonstrate how well it worked for a german auto magazine. So they filled this facility with fake fog, sent a test driver down into the fog and lo and behold he ploughed into the back of one of the other S classes.

It was a bit of an embarassment and for some reason the test driver ended up losing his job despite it being nothing to do with him. Still shows that sometimes these pieces of technology do have a way to go before they work properly.

Re:Speaking of S-Class auto brakes... (5, Informative)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452461)

I think the driver lost his job because he was the "journalist" taking part in rigging the test.

The test was a fraud in the first place.

Linky [theregister.co.uk]

Re:Speaking of S-Class auto brakes... (1)

Chicane-UK (455253) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452505)

Crikey. I'd never heard any more after the firing of the journalist.. didn't realise that all of this had been uncovered.

Thanks for the link!

Some other good camparissons... (4, Funny)

ayjay29 (144994) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452434)

The good ole' BBC has done some interesting comparisons involving Automobiles, which the Google heads have kindly made available on line:p>

Old vs New is here [google.com] .

But my favorate by far is Play Station vs Real Life here [google.com] .

Doesnt seem too much to ask (1)

Ciliano (945287) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452437)

I dont know any reason for the sudden mistrust of technology. Every time you have entered a car and turned it on up to this point, you have faced far greater dangers than the article brings up. Your trust in technology has to be pretty strong to get into a large steel/fiberglass/plastic object that is propelled by a series of controlled explosions under a hood about two feet in front of you. As you roll along speedily at 60 mph+ there are several other cars around you, weighing nearly a ton, doing the same thing. These are speeds and weights that will easily crush a person. Putting just a little bit more trust in automakers for something like blind spot checkers is not too much to ask when you already trust their products with your life so frequently.

The worst drivers in the world, probably (2, Interesting)

threaded (89367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452439)

Denmark has the worst drivers in the world. If it wasn't for all these fancy toys and the taxes making sure most vehicles only have tiny engines it would be utter carnage out there.

I cycle 50+ km a day and on my way to and from work I pass the wreckage of at least one accident in either direction. i.e. I see on average more than one accident every 25km.

Can anyone beat that?

(P.S. For the Danish readers the journey is along Roskildevej, right at Radhusplassen and over the swing bridge)
(P.P.S. I only notice so much as they appear to dump the wrecked cars on that bit of road I have the temerity to try and cycle along.)
(P.P.P.S. I do wish they would properly clean up all the glass and other rubbish afterwards as well.)

5 P s (1)

Quirk (36086) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452448)

Proper
Preparation
Prevents
Poor
Performance.

Engineers can work technological wonders to mitigate against accidents and protect passengers in accidents, but the fact remains the majority of people freeze in an emergency situation or freak out. Those who can keep their heads in emergency situations expose themselves to the training and experience that will allow them to survive, perhaps in spite of the engineering.

Making driving easier doesn't make it safer. (2, Insightful)

Captain Lou (904174) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452449)

I would be interested if my assumption is true, and that is the more you automate the car into preventing the driver from losing control the more likely that driver will eventually pay so little attention to their driving that when they do ultimately push the car too far the result will be catastrophic.

The less drivers need to think about the fact they are in control of a couple of tonnes of metal adhering to the whims of inertia the less attention they'll pay to that fact. When this innatentive Michael Schumacher finally does push his vehicle past its ability to correct for driver stupidity, the speed at which the car leaves the road is therefore higher, making a bigger crash and increasing the chances of making driver/passenger/pedestrian into shoe custard.

SO, if that is the case, adding more stupidification features into automobiles may reduce the number of collisions, but increase the odds of the collision causing death.

Something for the grant hungry amongst you to draft a study proposal over.

Why a fancy radar system for blind spots? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14452451)

Why a fancy radar system for blind spots?

A blind spot mirror ($1-$2 US at any Wal*Mart) works just as well and has far less that can break with it. I got one after having a few "near misses" when driving without one (California's roads have too many freeways with forced lane changes--the 5-210 junction is one of the worst examples of this).

Morons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14452453)

I am 17 (and I wish morons would not judge by age) and I have not a licence, but I can drive a 1969 GTO without any of this modern bullshit implemented and perfectly(even a 1994 Chevy Beretta)... If people cannot drive without traction control or ABS (minimally) then they should not be able to drive at all. Driving a motor vehicle is not difficult. Some that I know still can't drive at all even with safety features and such... it is truly sad, they should "come up with" some type of test (I believe Intelligent Quotient tests are full o' shit) to see if people are not intellectually devoid enough to drive... safety or not, it is not hard

New fangled gadgets (2, Insightful)

Lando (9348) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452477)

Well, say what you will, I like having power steering and power breaks. I could do without the automatic transmission, but apparently many cars no longer come with "standard" transmissions.

    The ability to slow down for traffic in front of the vehicle would be appreciated as well. I have been in two accidents where the driver of the vehicle following did not pay attention and slammed into someone that had stopped. A system that helped prevent this from happening would have saved time and effort on my part, especially since the insurance payments are never really enough to cover your expenses.

      When driving I also worry about my blind spots quite often. I now drive a minivan and it's difficult to see small cars that are traveling in my blind spot... As a motorcyclist I often have people pull into my lane and have to keep a constant eye out to prevent injury.

      So nebulus comments about how no one needs traction control outside of racetracks, attributing new driver skills to skills picked up in video games and talking about how if you took away modern technology like anti-lock breaks etc modern drivers would have more accidents... Well, I'm sorry wasn't that why the new systems were added in the first place? To make driving safer....

Also, I'm highly doubtful that locking the brakes on dry pavement will stop you faster than anti-locking brakes. From my own personal experience it takes longer to stop and you have less control so it appears to me that this is just FUD.
   

It's not the car, it's the car's driver... (2, Interesting)

PoconoPCDoctor (912001) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452483)

Last winter I had an experience using ABS, and it seemed to me that it was knowing how and when to use ABS is a skill still sorely lacking in most drivers. You can read the entire quote [poconopcdoctor.com] on my blog, but here are the pertinent points...

Today's commute was quite an experience, as the Poconos, as well as most of the Northeast United States, were graced with 12 or so inches of the white stuff - snow, in layman's terms.

As I headed down the mountain, I spy a snowy white Range Rover, England's answer to the Hummer, creeping along the other side of the road. I assumed the road was blocked - I stopped and we both rolled down our windows - I asked the gentleman was the road ahead blocked by a car, was that why he was turning back? He replied in a Russian accent, "Is terrible road conditions - my wehicle can't make it - I'm goink home."

He rolled his window up and I mine, and I considered his words. Let's add this up. This man has a 2005 Range Rover, costing about $84,085 (Ichecked this price on the web later) - basically a car designed to scale Mt. Everest without shifting out of 1st gear, and I, on the other hand, am leasing a 2001 Toyota Rav4, list price about $20,000. He is going back to his safe, warm house, and I am attempting to drive down the mountain. The voice inside me says - go for it, (please note I have scheduled my inner voice for a visit to a good therapist) and proceed. Sure enough, the Rav starts to emit the familiar sound of the ABS brakes kicking in, but I find it relatively easy to keep it headed around the the steep curve and make it past the most challenging portion of what qualifies as our little Mt. Everest in these parts. Note to inner voice - you were right and I'm canceling that therapist's appointment.

The Moral Of The Story? - Thinking of buying a Range Rover? Buy a Rav4, save $64,000.00 and STILL be safe.

Arriving at the Park and Ride, I find that my bus company decided it was a tad too dangerous to venture forth into the elements, and so I was faced with a decision to either wait until they felt conditions improved, or drive in by my lonesome.

Lonesome won. The roads were actually fairly clear of snow, thanks to the road plow crews in PA and NJ, and since it was quite possible that the remainder of all timid Range Rover drivers had opted to decline descending the incline, remarkably free of traffic as well. Although I had phoned in earlier and given an estimate of at least a 2 to 3 hour delay in my arrival at work, I was only about 5 minutes late, and my boss was quite pleased!

Cars are faster now, and safety is more important (1)

some1somewhere (642060) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452504)

It really depends on your perspective. Sure the F1 cars of years ago were fast, but the drivers died when there was a big crash. Nowadays most F1 drivers, with all the advanced CAD desgiend rollcages and such can walk away from disasterous crashes with little more than a scratch and broken rib.

Cars like the Bugatti with 1001HP, can you imagine driving that without ABS, 4WD, various driver assists like traction control, etc.? I'm sure a pro driver would have no problem controlling it, but why let only the pros have all the fun?

For cars, technology is the great equalizer. You want to drive a raw car with little intervention and help, get a Lotus Elise. You want to go just as fast or faster for about the same kind of money, get a Mitsubishi Evolution or Subaru STi, and have a much easier time at it.

But personally, I'd like the car to warn me if there is something in my blind spot, especially during spirited driving. It doesn't replace me, it supplements me.

Who are these people? (1)

Marce1 (201846) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452506)

1) Real link here

2) The test involved only 4 people, who seem to have been deliberately chosen from the very worst of rich idiots: what a suprise, they cant drive.

3) If you're not scared by other drivers, you haven't been paying attention.

it is a universal fact (1)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452509)

Nobody is exempt from the laws of physics. Even the morons in California, driving their BMW's, are subject to Newton's laws of inertia. No amount of ABS will save the situation, when the a$$hole's front bumper is a mere 15 feet from my rear bumper.

A one-million-candlepower spotlight shining out my rear window, on the other hand, would tend to make people very smart very quickly.

The disconnect from reality is the real danger (5, Insightful)

Max Nugget (581772) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452525)

I think much of what goes wrong in driving is the result of the increasing disconnect from reality that modern drivers face.

When you're riding a bike, the danger of what can happen if you're not cautious is all too real. Same with skiing. Same with walking.

Cars are another story entirely. It goes far beyond gadgetry like ABS, traction control, and the other modern technologies. It's far more fundamental than that.

You're in an enclosed environment. The windows are up. You can't fully hear the sounds outside the car. When you're on the highway going 80 mph, you've got the windows up. You can't feel or hear the loud, howling, fierce, blistering wind, the loud, raw sound of the tires grinding down the pavement. The shrieks of cars and trucks passing you by. You hear and feel maybe 20% of that, with the windows rolled up. These are all danger cues, things to keep you on high alert, but you've blocked them out, enclosed in the false security of your vehicular cockpit, with comfortable reclining bucket seat, music and talk radio, comfort-maximizing air conditioning and heating, zero wind, etc.

And then you've got those nice cars with the great suspension. No longer can you feel the all-too-real road beneath you. Now you don't even realize you just drove over a giant pothole at 40 mph.

The car control schema itself is like a video game. One pressure-sensitive button to stop, another to go. A wheel to steer. Each of these controls, your low-effort movements are amplified 1000x to control the multi-ton vehicle you're sitting in. Tired of pressing the B button? No problem, flip on the cruise control.

And most importantly, of course, is the need for speed! We love going 70, 80, 90 mph -- as fast as we can get away with. Why? Because we love to live in the moment, and that's ALL you feel when you're zooming along at 100 mph down an open road. You're steering a giant death machine at 100 mph...you don't have TIME to think about anything but the present.

And this, "living in the moment," is dangerous for exactly the same reasons it's enjoyable: You're not thinking about the future. Not even the near future. Not even the next few minutes. You've all but completely blocked out all thoughts, all concerns of the potential consequences of your actions.

This is scary. (3, Insightful)

stunt_penguin (906223) | more than 8 years ago | (#14452535)

Now people have argued that keeping a skill like driving a vehicle safely is no longer required as computers will be able to do it for us. But the required skill here- to be able to pilot a big hunk of metal, plastic and glass among other similar vehicles without anyone getting killed will still be a required skill for many years to come.

I think the real question here is how much control of these machines can be safely handed over to the judgement of an automated system, and whether we'd be willing to accept human death caused by such a system.

It's hard enough to accept death if it's human error or bravado that caused the accident. But when an error on your onboard computer means your car rams the back of a 7 seater and kills the two five year olds in the back seat, who do you blame?

Now people will answer with 'but planes already have autopilots and all sorts of automated systems' but a n autopilot doesn't do much more than keep a passsenger plane pointed at the desired heading while two or three professional crew members keep the plane safe. There's still a pilot and crew watching out for the safety of the plane and passengers, there are Ait Traffic Controllers making sure that planes don't come within miles of each other, and planes don't have to watch out for pedestrians (much).

Computers won't make driving much safer for now, and if we're going to allow automated systems such as these to get into the hands of ordainary people, who will take them as an excuse to pay less, not more attention at the wheel, then we're going to have to deal with the consequences of computer error killing people on a regular basis on our roads.
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