Do today's cars have too many driver aids?

April 27, 2015 | Commentary

Most of the driver aids I believe are good things. Anti-lock braking system in particular, as well as the various traction control and stability control systems are very worthwhile, as unless you are practising controlling these things regularly you are unlikely to be able to control the car in the situations that these systems cut in.
Most of the driver aids I believe are good things. Anti-lock braking system in particular, as well as the various traction control and stability control systems are very worthwhile, as unless you are practising controlling these things regularly you are unlikely to be able to control the car in the situations that these systems cut in.

But what about wipers that come on automatically in the rain, lights that come on at night (or in tunnels, or under underpasses), blind spot monitoring systems, and even satellite navigation. Let's have a look at these one by one.

Auto wipers

Really, this is just laziness. We are not talking cars from many decades ago where turning on the wipers meant reaching down to the dashboard, or perhaps even manually turning the wipers to clean the windscreen. All modern cars have the wiper control very close to where your hands sit on the steering wheel.

Personally, if I haven’t driven in rain for a while, I like to let the screen get wet enough so that the wipers are less likely to scratch the windscreen when they are first turned on.

Auto lights

Given the number of people I see driving with no headlights on this might be a good feature. I might have even done it myself once or twice. But I find some of these systems annoying, some come on too early such as when driving under a short underpass.

Blind spot monitoring

Many motorcyclists would be happy for every driver to have these, but again it is a bit of laziness not to look over your shoulder before changing lanes. I wonder if people become dependent on this and don't look anywhere but straight ahead.

How reliable are these systems? If the camera gets dirty or blocked somehow is the driver aware? Is this possible?

Satellite navigation

Personally I like to know how to get around without navigation aids and generally study the map before going somewhere I don't know. But I know of people who put 100% of their trust in navigation systems and have no idea where they are, which direction they are going, or how close they are to their destination unless their navigation systems tells them. And they also seem to be wrong a significant percentage of the time.

I kind of understand if you are in a foreign country or state that they can be useful but again given the amount of times they get it wrong I would find it very difficult to put my trust in one.

I heard Alex Roy (US transcontinental record holder) say in an interview that he has so little trust in these systems, and based on his substantial experience and research, he uses around 5 systems simultaneously.

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