Driving AssistancePosted: Sun 19 January, 2020
During the last three months of 2019 I ended up hiring a few cars for longer rides and so on. There was no particularly good reason for it – the primary motivation was that some of the drives were likely to involve heavy traffic, so having an automatic seemed like a decent plan. Outside of that, cutting down some of the mileage on my own car, and also well, it was just fun to play with some different cars.
Out of it all, it was interesting to me to see how much driving has changed, and primarily the plethora of driving assistance things that’ve been added in the last few years. Things like auto start/stop, lane-change warnings, automatic lights, automatic windscreen wipes, intelligent cruise control (the one that automatically adjusts speed based on vehicles around you, rather than just ‘70 mph and that’s it‘) , road-sign recognition, and speed limiters.
In general, I’m really not a fan of these aids and “helpers” – as has been noted before, I’m a bit of a control-freak, and I don’t like ceding driving decisions to them. My main reasoning on this though isn’t actually about my own driving, it’s about the driving of others. It seems like a lot of these things help to make drivers feel that they don’t need to be so aware of what’s going on, and so they become less conscious of their surroundings, which makes for things being more dangerous, rather than less.
In the end, there were only two that I found to be useful, and even then there’s only one that I’ve “missed” having at all.
I used the speed limiter more than I thought I would – mainly on trips where I’d been an idiot and done big day-trips (three or more hours each way) or where I was coming back after a long and active day. On those occasions, knowing that I couldn’t take the car over whatever I’d set meant it was something I didn’t have to concentrate on, and that meant I could give more awareness and concentration to the actual drive. I wouldn’t use it on a day-to-day basis, but it was definitely useful on the times when I did activate it.
The only thing I’ve actually missed though is the automatic windscreen wipers. It’s more about reducing my own annoyance than actually being useful as such, but I’ve noticed its lack. Particularly on motorways (which is still the great majority of my driving) I find rain is too changeable, too random for regular windscreen wipers to be effective without occasionally squeaking when there’s not been enough rain, or not clearing rapidly enough when a sudden dollop lands (or there’s more as one passes a truck or whatever) So you end up changing the intervals, or only triggering a manual sweep when it’s needed, or whatever. Anyway, it annoys me whatever happens.
The automatic wipers took all of that away. Leave them on auto, and they’d handle it all without hassle. Yes, it’s odd (in some ways) to see them go from nothing to a sudden three wipes, or increasing the cadence in response to that truck chucking up a load of water or whatever. But it still meant it was something that wasn’t annoying me, which tends to be a positive…