Thursday, 3 July 2008

Technology for Bad Driving

That's as ambiguous as I could make it!

Is it 'technology to make drivers bad', 'technology to improve bad driving' - or technology to catch bad drivers'?

Well, all three really.

I often watch the 'fly on the wall' police programmes, like Road Wars and Police Interceptors. In particular Interceptors has some very natty modern technology used: ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) systems, some mounted in vans, others fitted as part of teh police car's video systems, 'Tracker' set-ups for finding stolen vehicles, hand-held computers (presumably of the 'Blackberry' ilk, and even hand-held fingerprint readers.

Technology for 'improving' drivers seems to be aimed towards removing their responsibility to actually do any driving! Recent 'innovations' include radar-linked anti-collision systems, some linked to cruise control, others for slower speed, in-traffic. Then there's the lane recognition systems - cameras which recognise when a car is drifting within a lane and 'nudge' the steering wheel. And of course, GPS systems.

Unfortunately, a lot of these set-ups actually remove responsibility while returning it. What do I mean? One of the radar-linked cruise systems requires that the driver sets an appropriate following distance. Even then, the first action the system takes when too close to the car in front is to warn the driver. Errr . . shouldn't the driver have some idea of what's happening in front of them?

And GPS; how many stories do you hear about "But I was only going where my GPS told me to!". Locally to here that includes vehicles trying to get through a ford in mid-winter. The ford's been there for decades with rarely a problem - now cars are getting swept away (and a furniture delivery van!) quite regularly.

Another GPS trait to watch for is the last-minute dive from lane 3 of a motorway across to the exit slip as the driver follows the instructions without checking.

Of course, another innovation is camera systems which tell drivers what's in their blind spots . . .

Sadly, motorcycles aren't exempt from the advance of technology; an Eu-funded project is looking at ways of implementing "advanced driver assistance and in-vehicle information systems".

There's a consultation open on this, if you wish to comment.

FEMA (Federation of European Motorcyclists) are helping with the on-line survey.

SafeRider EU


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