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Auto Safety Features: Good, Bad, and Indifferent

With recognition of the varying road conditions across the globe, lane assist may be the most laughable requirement of the lot with the least return on the dollar and an arguable safety enhancement. Why, eg roads in Cornwall, the Scottish Isles, or the tracks (improved or not) in the bush as flippant examples. But since they might help inattention on modern dual carriageways, US Interstate highways, the Autobahn, the M1 and friends, and similarly improved roads, lets mandate them?

I do not know anyone with lane sensors that has not turned them off and left them off. I obviously do not know everyone.

Even autonomous cruise (I love it) can become an accident waiting to happen if the driver is not actively ‘driving’. Personal experience: a bend to the right on the 4 lane road limit 80kph with a turn lane going to the left and a vehicle enters the turn lane and slows; the cruise sensors mistakenly thought that vehicle was straight ahead and closing very fast so hard braked. I disengaged it quickly so only a second of angst, but another second and there could have been a multi-car pile up. Someday they will add steering geometry to the ‘closing on an object’ algorithm, but apparently not universally yet, save for the ‘highly dependable and safe’ autopilot/autonomous implementations where the driver becomes a passenger. (yes, a bit of sarcasm, misplaced or otherwise).

Every safety feature might be more or less additive, but at what cost and result?

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Phil @PhilT you raise some good points in your post . As a further addition to my post regarding the Kia contract I cancelled my order for the new vehicle with the " Safety Kit " fitted . After driving a vehicle with the features you described in your post I found them annoying to say the least and the face recognition braking for pedestrians walking out in front of you gave 3 false positives . People at buss stops have a habit of leaning out to see if the buss is coming . The car braked . Obviously a false positive . On later inspection it was found the car had had the windscreen replaced and the face recognition sensors were incorrectly calibrated . Well that’s the story I got . Human error . If another vehicle had been behind me I could have been rear ended because of an " incorrect " calibration .

I turned the safety assists off . The second vehicle I borrowed for a week led to me turning the safety aids off as well . I had to drive down to Warne Ponds on the Princess Hwy . The lane assist was a real pain but I did like the idea of active cruise control and being able to set the distance between myself and the vehicle I was following . Could lead to complacency and an over reliance that these systems would prevent damage .

One manufacturer even described active cruise control as "preventing " damage whilst highway driving . They had to recall the manuals and replace the word "prevent " with " may help minimise damage " .

If these features were to save even one life on our roads I think making them standard on vehicles would be justified . Unfortunately like stability control when it was adopted by the motoring industry some drivers thought they were bullet proof and could not loose control of the car . WRONG .
Due to the motoring media and ANCAP testing figures being inflated due to fitment of safety packs we will probably see a mandatory adoption of these safe packs in Australia .

No system can cover every condition the average driver finds themselves facing in their daily use of their vehicle . They maybe just lulled into a false sense of security .

For now I will keep my car without these assists and see what unfolds in the future . Technology changes rapidly and it will be interesting to see what is offered in the near future .

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Can one imagine being prosecuted (civil or criminal) if one is in (at fault or not at fault) a serious (economic) or fatal (death) accident and the prosecution asserts you are liable because all safety features were not engaged, or at least the one(s) most likely to have mitigated or avoided the accident, regardless if they actually would have?

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Phil @PhilT I think we are/would be tip toeing through a legal minefield .

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I have only had it on a hire car and did exactly that. It works fine on a straight road with line marking in the centre and on the edge…but doesn’t work where there are no such line marking nor on curves where one may get close to the centre/edge line when turning.

For them to work effectively, all roads would need potentially wider lanes around corners and all line markings in the centre and on the edge. In Australia this rules out most roads outside urban areas (with exception of parts of the main highways) and all the unsealed/gravel roads…where such would have the most benefit.

Maybe before such decisions are made, those making a decision should get out of the city and see what little effect lane departure systems have…in places where it could have the most benefit if they worked.

It would be also interesting to see if the abundance of safety systems create complacency or increase risk taking?

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Three points of view, possibly imagined.

The Safety and Trauma Expert:
If it saves just one life it’s worth it. That it might add $3,000 to approx one million annual vehicle sales or $3B annually is irrelevant.

The Car Manufacturer:
It’s how we can help you to be a safer driver and it’s not about increasing the cost of a car. The beauty of technology as a value add is that the true cost to the manufacturer is invisible to the buyer. (OEM Sat Nav units are the platinum edged example.)

The Legal Profession:
We’re here to help. Impartial as always. $$$$$$

Unlike the previous three, consumers have limited ability to lobby. Choice members are one exception.

More focussed,
are we also crossing into the discussion topics on AI and Autonomous Vehicles? Digital and personal privacy might also deserve some comment? IE continuously monitored vehicle and driver behaviour.

It’s worth noting the significant requirements put in place for manned AI vehicle trials in Australia. A taste from the latest discussions across governments.

The vehicle enhancements of AEB, adaptive cruise control, and lane assistance are elements necessary for autonomous operation.
Is there evidence of similar rigour having been applied to trial and assessment in Australia prior to their introduction?

Would the motor vehicle owning consumer be forgiven for thinking it is neither about them or for them?

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Interesting to compare with the current covid situation - what price do we put on a life? and does it depend who is paying? (of course it does).

Perhaps if there was more revenue to be made from fining people from breaches of CHO orders like failing quarantine requirements or not properly distancing it would be lucrative enough to continue restrictions to save lives, but maybe I’m being a little cynical :wink: Toward zero indeed !

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and lane assist
are two quite different things.
Lane sensor (setting turned on all the time in our car by our choice) gives tactile feedback through the steering wheel to the driver when the car goes over a marked line (centre line, road side line, and if multi-lane road the lines between lanes). The sensation is rather like when a car without this functionality goes over a line that has “rumble strip” built into it. The technology obviously uses intelligence as well as cameras - so that at low speeds (eg parking, 40kph zones) it does not send the tactile feedback to the driver when a painted line is crossed.

Lane assist is part of driver assist, and in our car we can choose at anytime to drive in one of the following three modes:

  1. without driver assist (lane sensor still works)
  2. with what we think of as “smart cruise control” where the car uses the speed limit for the piece of road you are on and radar etc to detect vehicle in front to control the speed of the car. Usual cruise control warnings apply (do not use in suburban situations, do not use on winding roads, not good for driving economy on roads that go up and downhill a lot), and you can over-ride the speed setting (or set one if there are no speed zone signs).
  3. driver assist contains Lane Assist and smart cruise control and some other functions. In this mode you need to keep a light touch on the steering wheel but the car does the steering. You do not get the choice of turning this mode on if there are no clearly marked lines on the road (centre line, side line); the car indicates when turning this mode on is possible, ie when it can “see” the lines well enough. This mode is helpful on highways, freeways, expressways, tunnels, etc; it does not work properly when you leave that situation and enter a situation with street intersections (look at what happens to painted line markings in intersections and you’ll see why). When we choose to turn it on Lane Assist steers the car so that it remains in its lane.
    It will also help to change lanes - when we have this mode turned on we look to see if lane we want to move into is clear, we move the indicator stalk to show we are going to veer left or right, the lane assist does a check and then steers the car into the next lane, and then continues keeping the car in that lane (at the same time using smart speed control to adapt to the speed in the new lane).
    Lane assist only moves the car over one lane - which I think is a good thing (one of my pet beefs is when a car that is 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 lanes over from my lane does a lane change aross all of them in one move). The car uses radar and cameras to detect vehicles on all sides of you. At any time you can turn driver assist mode off by either of two methods - its control stalk, or simply resist the steering wheel with your hands. I can hear people asking “what if you don’t keep touching the steering wheel?” and the answer is that the car prompts you visually and audibly to remind you to do so.
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It’s great to have some experience related that can be compared with our everyday vehicle use.

We are rarely able to take advantage of basic cruise control. With the exception of a short section of the Bruce Highway (M1) the other advanced features described appear unusable. Partly due to line marking being either absent or frequently changing. I can see there may be some safety gains if you were drifting off in a long journey on a well formed motorway. Perhaps the Hume? But if you are so tired or distracted to not keep in the centre of the lane, is there another bigger concern about poor trip planning and fitness to be driving?

Even with the M1 there are frequent merging and diverging traffic flows. Vehicles changing lanes to get ahead, exit, darting into take up safe following gaps from the vehicle ahead to gain advantage are all too common. It’s not quite the right thing to do, but sitting in the far right lane at exactly 100kph by the vehicle speedo might be the best use of the advanced technology. Or that least likely to result in unnecessary system corrections.

I do like the idea of the autonomous emergency breaking, possibly because driving in heavy downtown and commuter traffic is full of split second reactions. It might help, or it might be a RPITA. :thinking:
I do my best to avoid both.

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My only experience with lane sensors was in a hire car last year. The constant false warnings drove me crazy for about a half day before I turned off the feature.

With my own car (which is RWD), I do something which seems counter-intuitive. When the roads are wet, I turn off the traction control nanny. I was too often caught out when trying to make a turn from a standing start, and even with very mild application of the accelerator, the nanny detects wheel spin and cuts engine RPM. When you are attempting to join the flow of traffic in Sydney, suddenly slowing in front of approaching vehicles is just too dangerous.

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I find it funny how people want to complain that the lane sensors doing what they are designed for drove them crazy so instead of correcting their driving they turned them off and say they don’t work properly everyone I know who has persisted with them now have no or very few problems with them as they have corrected their driving and do not unknowingly drift inside the lane

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Got to ask, do you or your mates ever venture off the main roads? eg roads with no or inconsistent lines, or very narrow lanes almost wide enough for a compact?

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I agree with @PhilT. If they worked properly and effectively, I would have no issue. Unfortunately they seem to be designed for motorway type driving where they have some benefit as lanes are usually marked on both sides…and only give a headache where there are no or inconsistent line markings. I have noticed that gravel roads where the surface as been swept by tyres or colouring between loose surface and underlying base is different, plays havoc with the system on the hire car we had. Also on one lane roads, leaving the pavement for oncoming vehicles troubled the system as well.

Add in overtaking etc…and they become more of an audible nuisance rather than an alert/warning system to those of us which venture away from urban roads or motorways.

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My experience had nothing to do with me drifting within a lane, and everything to do with the system ‘seeing’ things that were not lane markings and ‘thinking’ that they were lane markings. As I wrote, there were constant false warnings.

For anyone who would like to try for themselves or compare their own experience, the vehicle I hired was a 2019 Nissan Juke 2WD. We hired it for 15 days.

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