I've had a Mercedes flash a small coffee cup light at me to tell me I might want to pull over for break; I've had a Volvo set off warnings that someone was creeping into my blind spot on my right; I've had a Porsche let me know if anyone got within striking distance of any part of that beauty. It was like surround sound for a car – surround sensor.
There is much new technology that will enable me to spy on my kids when I'm not in the car with them. I can now back up 10 metres of RV with a rear-view camera as if I'm threading a needle. I can pop a button and let a computer parallel park for me as if I'm in a video game.
All great stuff, right? Sort of.
Remember when driving used to be a skill? Remember when you drove the car, the car didn't drive you? I'm all for advancements that increase safety, but I'm dubious of those that replace skill.
Back in the stone age when I was learning to drive, an instructor informed me rather matter-of-factly that men were better at parallel parking than women because their brains are hardwired to have better spatial ability. A little research proved him right, but I'm uncertain why he'd indicated it meant I might ultimately be less able to master performing this task. Not every parallel parking gene is located in the penis.
You can now know exactly what your teen is doing while driving your car, even when you're not in it. Want to monitor the speed? The music level? Where they actually go? Would your parents be happier today if they had the ability to do this when you were first driving? Didn't think so.
If you don't trust your kid to obey the law and drive safely, don't give them the keys to your car. If you don't think they know the proper way to drive, then you didn't find them adequate training.
With manufacturers so quick to develop systems more Orwellian than anything, I often wonder why, instead, they can't go back to tackle some of the basics they seem to have abandoned in the race to create technical umbilical cords.
The biggest screw-up nearly every car maker is guilty of? Daytime running lights that light up a dash, but not a rear lighting system. Which is more dangerous: that my kid drove three friends home instead of two, or that the car ahead of him on a rainy night is invisible?
The best idiot light you'll never see? The one that flashes "you're being passed on the right; you're in the wrong lane."
Insurance companies in the United States are rolling out programs that allow customers to plop a black box in their vehicles. Information is constantly streamed back, and if you're a perfect driver, your rates will reflect it. In a world where computers and cameras already track our every move, driving in your car might just be the last tiny bastion we have. If you're willing to allow someone to know you sing off-key or went to that seedy hotel, what other freedoms are you willing to give up to save a few bucks?
I tested an aftermarket back-up camera in my vehicle last summer. It was garbage and I had it removed, but in the interim, I would faithfully let it do its job. And I would just as faithfully continue to check every mirror, after I'd had a glance around my car before getting in.
Many instructors will show you how to set your side mirrors to virtually eliminate any blind spots. You can do it with your car, and have someone walk around the car to prove to you that you can indeed pick them up in one of your three mirrors at any point. Voila. No blind spot. I still check my blind spot. Why? To quote Ferris Bueller: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
I still look around. Things on the road can happen very quickly and, while I'll continue to add technological advancements to my coterie of driving abilities, I'll never let them supersede the most important one: the driver.