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Does Safety Tech Lead To Safer Roads?

4 min read
Determining car safety could be a balance of driver sensibility and modern safety tech.

There’s no denying that car safety technology offers useful features that form an important part of our cars today. The various features of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) assist drivers on the roads and are rapidly changing the way we treat and drive our cars. Features such as lane-departure prevention (LDP) track road markings to help keep your car within the lane, while blind-spot warning uses sensors to alert you to other road users in adjacent lanes.

Such solid safety features are, no doubt, essential. But a slew of new tech features could ironically present a typical driver with opportunities to put himself and others in danger. Just because it’s new does not mean that it’s 100% safe or effective. Road and traffic conditions combine to form an unpredictable environment, and reaction to a situation usually involves spilt-second decisions. As quickly as an automated system can react to these situations, it could also be disastrous if it had read the situation wrongly.

One of the most common and fatal flaws of these systems is its inability to recognise certain objects, especially stationary ones, in certain situations. For example, if the adaptive cruise control locks in on the front vehicle and that vehicle suddenly changes lanes to avoid a stationary vehicle ahead, the system may fail to recognise that stationary vehicle in time to deploy the brakes, resulting in a crash. In such situations, if a driver is alert and paying attention, he or she can react to that stationary vehicle and do an emergency lane change or hit the brakes to avoid a crash. Which leads us to the next problem: driver complacency.

Some drivers become over-dependent on these systems, failing to remember that these driver-assist systems are meant to assist and not replace the driver. Some forget that it’s important to physically check blind spots even if the blind spot monitoring is activated. Others could be comfortable enough with the speed monitoring system to actually do other activities, such as checking their phones! In particular, young drivers used to relying on technology may not feel the need to hone their driving ability and situational awareness. They maybecome too comfortable behind the wheel, letting technology drive them while dangerously tuning out what’s happening around them.

A significant number of drivers are unaware of the limitations of the systems. If the ADAS systems employ a forward-facing camera connected to the windscreen, it has to be recalibrated if there’s a windscreen replacement. If the position of the camera is shifted during a windscreen replacement, it will affect the ADAS‘s ability to make accurate readings, and will compromise its effectiveness. If the car has been in a minor accident, that may affect or damage the ADAS sensors installed in the body panels. Any replacement or recalibration has to be done by a certified technician who is familiar with the brand and model of the car.

Exterior-mounted ADAS cameras are exposed to the weather and are prone to pollutants such dirt and soot. These cameras need to be periodically cleaned for the system to work optimally, something most drivers aren’t aware of. Some features, such as the automatic emergency braking system, are reliant on these cameras. If the cameras are clouded or blocked by dirt, the ADAS functionality may be affected and rendered ineffective.

The introduction of ADAS has clearly impacted how we drive our cars and helped drivers be safe and drive safe. However, as we’ve seen, nothing is infallible, neither technology nor human. Maybe bringing the driver’s focus back on to the task of driving itself, with technology assisting on the side, is a good compromise to really make our roads safer.

Whether a car has ADAS or not, it still needs to be maintained regularly to perform in top condition. And instead of relying on outside help, you could learn how to do it yourself — the knowledge could not only save you a pretty penny, but it may help you get out of tricky situations.

AA Singapore organises one-day workshops on car safety maintenance. Lasting from 10am to 4pm, each workshop is broken into theory and practical components. The next session takes place on 22 May 2021. Click here for more details.