Mike Waters' Blog: 22 March 2010 - Who's driving your car?
22 March 2010
Mike Waters is senior insight & consultancy manager at Arval, the leading vehicle leasing and fleet management company.
Technology sometimes arouses suspicion and we have all grown up to a barrage of movies over the years where machines get too powerful and take over the world.
Love it or hate it, there is no denying that in modern life we rely heavily on technology and nowhere more so than in our cars.
Technologies and computer controls work away behind the scenes in all modern vehicles, often without the driver really knowing it. In our minds, many technologies have become standard and so go unnoticed such as climate control, immobilisers, airbags and ABS. In fact many of us wouldn't dream of buying a car without some or all of these features.
While advances in technology span nearly all elements of the modern vehicle, there are two major areas where it is advancing at pace and making a big difference. These are the environment and safety, and that's mainly because those are the areas where the manufacturers have been under the most scrutiny and pressure from government.
Cars are getting greener and advances from the manufacturers have been significant, in the last 2 or 3 years alone. Regenerative braking systems, greener engine technologies and the features that are coming through on hybrid vehicles to control the petrol engine and the electric motor mean that modern cars can deliver better mpg performance and greatly reduced tailpipe CO2 emissions.
Slightly more contentious for some drivers are advances in vehicle safety, not because they aren't important initiatives but because complex software needs to be faultless and this means putting complete trust in a machine. Examples include radar-based cruise control which keeps a vehicle a safe distance from the car in front, applying the brakes if the driver fails to.
Camera-based lane assist tools read road markings to keep a car in its motorway lane, night-vision systems keep an eye out for pedestrians and there is even technology coming through that recognises if the driver has nodded off behind the wheel and sounds an alarm to wake them. At the moment, many of these advances are only available on high end cars, but history tells us that the good ones soon find their way into less expensive vehicles and many will become standard in time.
Handing over power to technology can be scary thing and many drivers fret at the idea of a machine essentially driving itself. However, the reality is that whether you love gadgets or are a bit of a technophobe, technology is already successfully making it safer, greener and easier when you get behind the wheel. At the same time, even with all this technological support the buck stops with the driver, and certainly for the foreseeable future, technology will provide assistance rather than a replacement.