Friday, June 22, 2012

Excessive automation and excessively low speed on motorways...kills people

Is  not news....not rocket science...the more your car drives for you, the less you'll be driving.

It's a simple fact; sure it's nice to have a car that ESP's you out of a potential spin...and let's the most hand-fisted driver endure a long life, and eventually procreate. Some might say that it's manipulating the 'natural selection'; some say it's just wonderful. I'm going for a good mid term: either you know how to drive and handle your car, or you go and get some driving skills...but that does not mean you should crash and die a horrible death at the very first try.

So yes, thought I hate having the car decide for me in 99% of situations; reckon that there is the remaining 1% (snow or ice for instance) where ESP is good. And thought my cars never have ESP, I find it a life saving feature for 90% of drivers, saving them constantly from their lack of skill and knowledge.
But my tolerance towards vehicle automation stops there. Cruise control for instance kills people.
I loved to read this article as someone is actually starting to give some thought into this.

Mercedes has been doing it for some time now; as the king of excessive automation and excessive comfort, they soon realized that a car that maintains it's speed alone, brakes before hitting the next car and re-accelerates back to cruising speed after passing it, handles it self out of a hazard manoeuvre and still maintains the level of comfort that most living room sofas can't reach....will make it's driver sleepy, distracted or even wonder what should he do with the all that extra time.
As a result, they figured out ways to sense if the steering is too wobbly or the drivers corneas are not in a road oriented angle...and they did go beyond that assisting the driver in tasks towards others comfort, like lowering your high beams to oncoming cars.

This does however point out something very important:
Ever tried to drive 300km at a constant motorway speed of 120km/h with cruise control? I did the test. Unlike the usual 1 to none stops along the way, this time I've done 3... I had to eat 3 apples and had 3 espressos, trying to wake my self up. But still I missed my exits twice...and I'm used to this path. I've known it for the last 20 years or so and apart from the first time,I've never ever got it wrong...but then again I'm usually driving (not the cruise control) and well over the 120km/h 'parking lot' speed.

Excessive driver assistance is the dangerous mid-field of automation evolution.
It's not full driving automation, so the car can't actually drive for you 100% of the trip time.
So the distraction created from the partial assistance will generate hundreds or thousands of 2ton zombies cruising around.
When is it good? Well, when you get into a big mess and the ESP takes-over 100%.
Its simple... either you have 0% automation or you have 100% automation. The in-between is a dangerous territory for us humans...we tend to fail here by just getting distracted.