Learning to drive and pass the test is only the first step. Then it’s up to you to gain experience in the different types of road conditions for the rest of your driving career. A good driver never stops learning. In the early days, the vehicles themselves were not very safe and considerable skill was required to keep them on the road long enough to get to your destination. Modern drivers have never known the time when breakdowns were common. Every driver had to become familiar with the usual range of noises made by their vehicles. Any change was a potential symptom of an impending mechanical failure. Many carried quite comprehensive tool kits with them and could perform instant repairs for everyday problems. Everyone trained to deal with emergencies.
Worse were the handling characteristics. The suspension systems used to be primitive. This made roadholding a challenge, particularly on cornering, and sharp braking was an exciting venture into the unknown. Now the reliability of vehicles is a given and intelligent software controls the vehicles during cornering and braking to ensure a smooth and easy ride for drivers and passengers. It’s literally a revolution, taking much of the pressure off the driver and leaving the mind more free to concentrate on the driving itself.
One of the way in which this revolution has been encouraged is in the development of telematics. This is producing what the marketers are calling the smart connected car. So if the vehicle now does the unexpected and stops without warning, the vehicle itself calls for help from the emergency services. You no longer have to worry about whether you remembered to charge your cellphone. eCall to the rescue. Or if you prefer, there’s bCall which calls your repairshop with a report of all the symptoms and suggests which replacement parts the mechanics should bring with them. This is not, you understand, the vehicle thinking for itself. Clever people have spent a vast amount of time writing data collection and evaluation systems to monitor how the vehicle is performing. Either the vehicle itself can make the call to book your vehicle in for repairs, or your regular garage can wake up your vehicle’s on-board systems to find out whether you need maintenance or repairs.
Of course none of this software replaces you. At least not yet. According to Google and Toyota, the self-driving car is only a few years away. Perhaps as little as five years depending on whether state and federal government agree to letting them loose on the public roads. So what’s the advantage? Well, unlike an ordinary human being, the “car” can see everywhere all the time no matter whether it’s daylight or night. As of early 2013, the test Google vehicle had driven itself more than 400,000 miles without getting into an accident which is not a bad record given how often humans manage to crash into each other. This video clip shows you a slightly different reason for developing the technology.
For a moment just think about all the different types and degrees of disability that can keep people housebound or entirely dependent on others to do the driving for them. Or could this be made for those people who have one more drink than they should at the pub?
For the majority who still drive older technology, this site offers guidance on how frequently you should have the vehicle maintained, how to reduce the risk of theft, and how to change your driving style in line with road conditions. At present, no matter how good the anti-lock braking systems and the other clever on-board systems, there’s still a need to understand how to drive defensively to avoid skids, aquaplaning and other threats to your safety ending up as in the following picture.
Indeed, when winter is due to arrive, this is the time when you should take your vehicle in for a full service. This will ensure it will start and run smoothly when the temperature drops. More importantly, the heater will prevent you from freezing and help keep the windshield free of ice. As with all things in life, problems are smaller if you prepare in advance.