Is Your Car Making You A Better Driver?

Looking at technology's influence on everyday driving

Is Your Car Making You A Better Driver?

When I first started driving I got in the car, put on my seatbelt and away I went. Then came airbags and I remember watching commercial after commercial of those crash-test dummies. Nowadays, airbags are standard on cars and some even come with smaller airbags that minimize the impact of your knees hitting the dash in the event of a collision. Vehicle safety has come a long way.

GM Crash Test

I was curious about some of the technologies that manufacturers use to further assist the driver in terms of road safety. I was fortunate enough to connect with Fred Dixon (Technology Manager) and Donald Eng (System Engineer) at GM Canada. Using the 2014 Cadillac CTS and XTS, they showed me the possibilities in terms of using technology to enhance safety. There are sensors galore on these cars, with almost 360-degree coverage to let you know when your car’s getting too close to something.

Cadillac Driver Assist Sensors

They proposed an interesting point — what if every car on the road was fitted with these technologies? Theoretically, we’d be much safer. Our car would be able to warn us and we could potentially avoid a lot of accidents. What if all of our cars could actively help us reduce speed, maintain distance or even brake for us in anticipation of a collision? Read on about some of these safety features and just imagine how they could impact our driving life.

Blind Spot Monitoring System

This feature is in many of today’s vehicles and gives you an audible and/or visual warning if someone is in your blind spot. I personally find this very handy when someone has come into my blind spot just as I merge into a lane. It’s nice to have that heads-up.

Lane Departure Warning

This system uses a camera-based lane detection system to detect un-signalled lane changes. Though I can see the value the system provides, I found it to be distracting so I was thankful to have the option of turning the warning off.

Rear Cross Traffic Alert

In addition to having a simple rear vision camera, the rear cross traffic alert uses radar sensors to warn the driver if there is a moving vehicle about to come across its path. When I was backing out of my parking spot at the shopping mall, this feature helped me anticipate what might be coming across my path. Loved it.

Cadillac Rear Cross Traffic Alert

Rear Automatic Braking

Now this one is interesting — if it detects an object behind the car while you are reversing at low speeds (for example a parking pole or another car) and you still haven't applied the brakes after the vehicle's warnings then it will automatically brake for you. The CTS gives warnings to you visually on the centre display, physically by vibrating your seat and/or audibly. Keep in mind though that this is an abrupt stop with the brakes (it's meant as a last resort so you don't rely on it to do regular braking!)... This isn’t a slow stop, but then again, if you’re about to hit something I suppose the only thing you should be concerned about is that the car stopped in time. If you haven't put your foot on the brake pedal after the auto braking comes to a full stop, the electronic parking brake will be engaged to hold the vehicle. In addition, some Cadillacs have front automatic braking available.

Cadillac Rear Automatic Braking

Adaptive Cruise Control

By far, my FAVOURITE feature! Set the distance you’d like to keep from the car in front of you and set your speed for cruise control. When (and I say when, not if because it seems to happen quite often) a car comes into your lane at a lower speed, your car will automatically lower its speed to maintain that distance. You don’t have to manually adjust the speed or cancel cruise control. GET THIS — your car will even come to a complete stop if it senses that the vehicle in front of you has stopped. When the car in front of you begins to move, you can resume adaptive cruise control with a switch on the steering wheel. So theoretically you could drive the car for quite a distance without touching the pedals!

Vibrating Seats

Did I get your attention there? Just a note that some of the alerts are given by vibrating the driver seat. For example, if it detects a car coming from the left side while you’re reversing, the Cadillac will give the rear cross traffic alert by vibrating the left side of your driver seat. As GM has explained it before, it’s like someone giving you a tap on the shoulder to get your attention. There is an option to change the vibration alert to the standard audible ‘beep’ if that’s more your cup of tea.

GM Safety Seat Alert

What I’ve described here is just a small look at the potential of how our everyday driving could look different in even 5 to 10 years. Think about the push-button start — it’s more common now. Starting the car with a key in the ignition is becoming a thing of the past.

So, what do you think? If every car was fitted with these technology features, would we be able to significantly drop the number of accidents on our roads?