20 Mar 2013

Are cars dumbing down, and are they dumbing us down with them?

James Owen believes modern driver aids are turning us into automatons who are forgetting how to perform the basic functions required to drive cars

In my opinion, yes. But before we leave it there let me explain.  When I was learning to drive 10 years ago my car was a Vauxhall Corsa 1.2.  It had what is considered to be basic equipment - power steering and power assisted brakes - so basic it had to have someone sat next to me to tell me when to turn left or right and, on one or two occasions, that my speed was slightly over the limit!

When the joyous day came when I passed my test I decided that I should get myself a roadworthy car that was good looking, easy to insure and something that would mean ladies would come running - I was 18 what do you expect! With that in mind I decided that I'd buy a 1966 mk1 Ford Cortina GT.

It met my criteria, but one thing I had overlooked was the lack of any kind of driver assisted bits or safety equipment stuff - in fact the seat belts fitted were optional extras.  But I was glad they ticked that box as opposed to the radio which hadn't been chosen.

I drove the car for 2 years on a daily basis without a radio, power assisted brakes or brakes in general really (they were definitely lacking in power), power steering or cold starting on the engine. But I think not having things like that helped make me a better driver than people my age who were buying sensible cars.  The point being you learn how to drive a car and not rely on electronics to help you steer, brake or turn on the wipers when it rains.

I do appreciate that cars needed to evolve to help with driving and having an engine that starts when you want it to, without having the start up procedures that come with having a Webber carburettor, but having automatic emergency stopping is something that doesn't sit right with me.  Nor does automatic parallel parking which are 2 things that we should know as drivers by law.

I can't help but feel that things such as automatic braking and adaptive cruise control will only lead to accidents should these systems fail, or they are lulled into a false sense of security, which is potentially a problem when people only used to modern cars and their automated systems use vehicles without such assistance.

I do however have an appreciation for technological improvements in cars, especially the controlled ducting on Fords that close at certain speed to reduce drag and improve mpg.

Just let me drive the car!

What do you think?  Is Jimmy right or wrong on modern driver aids?  Are they going too far and dumbing down our ability to actually drive our cars?