If we look at the vast majority of cases, then the data shows wholeheartedly that electronic driver aids do help save lives, either through avoiding accidents entirely or by mitigating damage. Electronic driving aids have evolved and grown in number and availability, coming in everything from a Perodua Bezza to a Rolls-Royce Dawn.
As a short history lesson, electronic driver aids were initially designed to keep the driver in control of the car. Whether that was anti-lock braking systems (ABS) which allows you to steer even under hard braking, or traction control (TCS) which helped to reduce wheel-spin so a driver could maintain traction in slippery situations, the idea was the driver still had to be in control of the car.
Over time, systems grew more complex to include mainstays such as vehicle stability control (VSC) to keep the car from losing grip or spinning out of control, and more niche items such as lane keep assist (LKA) which will alert the driver if they wander into another lane. The spectrum is vast and varied, all with the intention of keeping you safe.
That being said, a number of problems have started to emerge as a result of all this and unfortunately it has resulted in an even stronger push to take control away from drivers as a whole and move towards entirely autonomous cars – especially as more and more people have no interest in driving themselves with each passing generation. Let’s take a look at how we got here.
A False Sense Of Security
We’re not saying that these systems don’t work, but there is a growing number of drivers who have become reliant on the various aids that come with their car – and they don’t even know it. Autonomous braking, lane keep assist, and even traction control are sometimes made to work overtime just to keep a driver on the road – and they may not even know it given how smooth these systems operate.
In many cases it’s not as though these drivers are intentionally driving aggressively or erratically, but rather they just aren’t aware of how much mass they are controlling or how little available grip there is, or just not being aware of their surroundings. This is more of an education and experience problem, which we talked about in an earlier piece.
A Lack Of Appreciation
We are finally at a point where almost every car you could possibly buy comes equipped with VSC, at the very least. What this means is that if you’re fortunate enough to start your driving career with a new car, you probably won’t ever experience what Malaysians affectionately call the “buang”, or “oversteer” as the rest of the world calls it. It’s how you end up spinning your car, but the job of VSC is to stop you from reaching this point and it usually steps in the moment you experience even the slightest amount of oversteer.
Now, for some drivers they take it to mean that they are nearly invincible on the road and they try to do some pretty impossible things with their cars. Among the more spirited drivers there will often be complaints of rear brake pads burning up or overheating, especially when on Sepang – that’s basically your VSC working overtime to stop you from crashing. Make no mistake – without these systems, you would have put your car into a wall a long time ago. Which brings us to our third point…
A Limit To Everything
As great and helpful as these systems are, they still are very much limited by the laws of physics and the condition of your car. The likelihood of a sensor failing exactly when you need the system to work is very low, but the likelihood of a Malaysian wearing their tyre down to the wire is high – and at that point, no driver aid is going to be able to save you, regardless of how advanced or expensive it is.
Similarly, the conditions we drive in can make it a challenge for these systems to offer the right amount of assistance at the right time. When the roads are flooded with enough water to cause aquaplaning, again it is beyond the scope of what a system can do to save you. When the radar systems are obstructed by rain or mist, you lose your autonomous braking functionality.
And Yet, We Support Them.
With all of this in mind, you would think that we hate these systems – but in actuality they still have far greater value in a greater number of scenarios. These are the outlier cases, the statistical anomalies that should not be considered as part of the whole. While we believe it is important to know how to drive and handle a car without any of these aids to help, we also would want our loved ones in a car that has these aids just in case they have a lapse of judgement or focus.