Although the Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto is an unequivocally tangled mess at rush hour, the unbridled mayhem really happens underneath the raised expressway.
To access the westbound, single-car on-ramp at Jarvis Street, most drivers dutifully line up for longer than a block. The oh-so-Canadian, respectful method demands a lot of patience – six … seven … eight … changes of a traffic light. But a few drivers won’t tolerate the wait. Instead, they’ll zoom past the lineup and brazenly cut in to the crawling line from both the left and right-turn-only lanes.
And so it was that a rude, careless driver set the scene for a sharp test of Nissan/Infiniti’s emergency forward braking. In the lineup, I was driving the Infiniti QX80 SUV, a luxury yacht on wheels, when a man driving a grey Ford Escape attempted the cut-in from the right lane.
With the left rear flasher on, he tried to worm his way between vehicles, only to find that their drivers were in resist mode, preferring he make the mandatory right turn rather than let him in. But I’d left a half-vehicle opening from the car in front, and he saw the opportunity. With the line fully accelerating onto the Gardiner ramp, he sharply and suddenly veered his vehicle at a 45-degree angle in front of mine.
Stunned for a nano-instant, my mind pondered the only two possible outcomes – a collision with the Ford’s broadside or a hard stop. Before I could react, the vehicle did. Emergency braking kicked in automatically, before my foot could transfer from the gas to the brake pedal. Less than a metre of distance was left between the pair of SUVs. Amazingly, the other guy sneered in triumph. Importantly, an accident and perhaps injury were avoided.
Forward emergency (a.k.a. automated braking) is part of the suite of driver-assist technologies on the QX80. Also with a long list of features in the optional ($8,800) technology package is lane-departure warning and prevention, intelligent cruise control, predictive forward-collision warning, blind-spot warning and intervention and backup-collision intervention.
Data from five cameras and three radar installations monitor the situation on the road, and the onboard computer enables the vehicle to react accordingly, in some cases faster than a human driver.
Engineers predict an accident-free future with autonomous-driven cars. I got a taste of that future under the Gardiner one day.