Is Technology Making Us Better Drivers?

With the latest statistics from the World Health Organisation revealing that around 1.25 million people still die each year as a result of road traffic incidents, it’s perhaps little wonder that the major car manufacturers continue to focus on new technology with a view to making our journeys behind the wheel much safer.

With more and more consumers focusing on the safety aspect of cars (often putting safety over both comfort and features); manufacturers are continuing to invest in the new automotive technology; thus giving drivers an extra set of eyes and ears whilst on the road and thereby making them much better drivers.

What type of technology can help improve our driving ability?

With increasingly more car manufacturers developing their technology, both reactive and responsive features are certainly playing a key role when it comes to improving driver ability. Adaptive cruise control systems, for example, can not only sense vehicles ahead but even have the capability to adjust the vehicle’s speed so as to maintain a safe following distance. Some even incorporate emergency braking which can, of course, completely alleviate a collision altogether.

Responsive technology can also assist drivers when it comes to night-time driving, since adaptive headlights are designed to cleverly adjust and illuminate the road – particularly ahead of turns and curves – thus enabling the driver to get a better view of what’s to come and more importantly, what to expect.

Another piece of technology that’s certainly no newcomer in terms of aiding a driver’s performance is ABS – or the ‘anti-locking braking system’. Whilst ABS doesn’t purport to introduce a full emergency stop, what is does do is keep the brakes from locking up, thus enabling the driver to maintain fuller control of the vehicle and concentrate whilst also being able to brake without skidding.

The ease of automation

There can be very little doubt that some aspects of today’s technology simply outweigh what we’re able to achieve as human beings – not just on the road; but in other aspects of our daily lives too. However, when it comes to improving our driving ability it seems clear that automation goes a very long way towards keeping us safe whilst we’re behind the wheel.

Take, as a very simple example, the convenience of automatic lights. As you drive into a tunnel your vehicle’s lights can be activated automatically i.e. by turning on only as you drive through the tunnel and then turning back off on the other side. Not only does this very simple process assist the driving experience in terms of increased sight but also enables the driver to focus purely on driving, as opposed to having to remember about switching lights on and off. This is also true, of course, when it comes to nighttime driving. In fact, you’ll often see older vehicles leaving static places, such as a petrol station, with their lights still off – the driver simply not having thought to switch them on given the brightness of their surroundings as they start the engine up.

Another prime example of technology making us better drivers is parking – an everyday task that some of us will admit to needing a little help with!  With many vehicles now being fully equipped with automatic parking sensors, there can be little doubt that they go a long way to improving our driving ability and certainly help eliminate annoying knocks and bumps whilst trying to manoeuvre into smaller or awkward shaped places.  

Unfortunately – and particularly whilst parking – it can be extremely easy not to catch sight of certain objects, such as traffic cones or shopping trolleys, which might not be in full view of the driver and therefore easily missed. This, of course, also includes pedestrians when the situation can be much more serious – particularly with younger children who might not be tall enough to appear in the rear view or side mirrors. Car owners can use also many mobile apps for drivers designed to support their safety.

And the case against? …

For all the advantages of modern technology when it comes to improving the driver experience it will always, of course, be open to criticism – particularly from those who remain particularly adverse to ‘computer dependence’. And such arguments are perfectly valid since nothing can truly compare to human instinct and reaction.  Consequently whether drivers tend to over-rely on technology – or fail to improve their driving skills as a result of pure dependence on it – is a topic subject to much debate. Ultimately, then, the real test must surely rely on the facts and as technological advances increase these will certainly become a lot clearer.

At the end of the day – love or loathe technology – there can be very little doubt that, for the time being at least, it’s certainly going an awful long way in terms of making us better (and much safer) drivers.

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