Driver assistance systems

And now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain… My dear readers, in a cruel twist of fate I, James, the car enthusiast with no surname, will be sent to the ‘great dealership in the sky’, for this is my final article for Perrys!

(Insert lengthy pause for tears here.)

It is fitting that my grand finale is of a gadgety nature, as I discuss the coolest driver assistance systems. But before delving into each of them, let’s take a ‘helicopter view’, as management consultants would probably say.

‘Assistance’, not ‘reliance’

We’re at an interesting time with driver assistance technology. On one side, we’ve got increasingly clever tech like self-parking cars, and on the other we’ve got fully driverless cars just around the corner. The two are starting to meet in the middle, most notably with Tesla’s autopilot feature, which is largely self-driving, but where you still need to pay attention to the road and not get distracted by wizards and muggles.

The Tesla autopilot has had a few teething problems that have given the industry a bit of a jolt, and thrown into the spotlight the dilemma of exactly when driver assistance technology stops being helpful and starts making drivers too passive. I’ve consequently chosen my picks below as handy ‘last resort’ systems which don’t remove the joy or the responsibility of driving.

STOP! (Hammertime)

Automatic braking is a nifty brake-through (see what I did there?) in driver assistance technology.

It proactively scans the area ahead of your car using a combination of radar and video, and automatically slams on the brakes if a crash is imminent. It’s not perfect – predictive emergency braking systems are designed to deploy only as a last resort, as non-essential automatic emergency stops could, paradoxically, cause more accidents.

In essence, don’t let automatic emergency braking change the way you drive, but sleep more soundly in the knowledge that it’s looking over your shoulder should you have a lapse of concentration.

Now you see me, now you don’t

It is generally considered preferable to be able to see where you’re going while driving, particularly at night. With this in mind, there is some clever lighting technologies available to the modern driver.

The most simple is automatic headlights, which measure ambient brightness and switch themselves on when needed.

A fancier development is adaptive light control systems, which measure the steering angle, speed, and tilt of the car to point headlights in the direction which will give you best visibility of upcoming corners.

The ultimate sci-fi evolution is night vision technology, with cars either using infrared or thermal imaging cameras to present a magical view of the road ahead, either on the dashboard or on the windscreen via a heads-up display.

Wakey wakey!

The first motorways were explicitly designed to be boring, the logic being that drivers shouldn’t get distracted. In reality, however, it’s easy to become drowsy when you’re travelling along mile after mile of identical grey tarmac, without the merest hint of disco lights or anything else similarly interesting.

Driver drowsiness detection analyses driver behaviour for signs of nodding off, and uses a combination of visual and audible signals to remind you to stay awake. Unfortunately, they cannot yet slap you in the face with a wet fish, or inject Starbucks’ finest directly into your bloodstream.

It’s pretty clever stuff. Some dosy driver assistance systems focus on analysing the car itself, such as looking for the tell-tale sleepy ‘drifting steering followed by abrupt correction’ pattern, whilst others focus on the driver, looking for ‘Churchill dog’ style head nodding.

Again, this isn’t an invitation to pop on the eye mask and count sheep while you’re driving – it’s very much a tool of last resort, and if it triggers then it’s a sign that you need to get off the road immediately and catch an absolute minimum of forty winks before you continue your journey.

#BringBackJames #NoToJexit

Alongside prolific usage of the above hashtags, a pro-James petition with at least 4 million signatures would be splendid. Assuming, however, that the general public have tired of activism, petitions, and expressions of displeasure on social media, this is indeed farewell from me.

It has been a pleasure spouting semi-coherent ramblings at you this past year, and for the final time I strongly advocate heading to your local Perrys, having an emotional chat with the dealer, and buying lots of cars bursting with driver assistance tech. Sayonara!