Shauna Gerke and Chris Rhoades

Shauna Gerke and Chris Rhoades

Self-driving cars are not mainstream yet, but many say they’re coming. Today’s vehicles have a lot of automated assistance that some feel will make us even more complacent behind the wheel. Are automated driving features a good thing that help keep us safe or are we putting too much faith in computers to get us from here to there? Associate Publisher Chris Rhoades and Front Office Manager Shauna Gerke debate.

Rhoades: Load my car up with all the help I can get

I’ll admit, some of the automation in cars these days does make me a little nervous. I think a case can be made that all the automation will make us lazy and inattentive behind the wheel. However, I’d make the argument that we’re already entirely too poor of drivers, and that if we can get help from a computer, we should take it.

Speaking from experience, my vehicle has lane assist. This is where it senses the center and shoulder lines as you drive, and if you start veering, it will buzz or beep and even correct you back the other direction.

As much as I hate to admit it, this feature has kicked in for me over the past few years. I average about 30,000 miles of driving a year, so even as a self-proclaimed great driver, I’m not always going to be perfect. Having a little extra help doesn’t make me think I don’t have to pay attention, it just gives me a little bit of peace of mind.

Many vehicles also have park assist, which, if you’ve ever gone to any parking lot in America, you can clearly see that this is not just a cool feature, it’s a necessity. Back up sensors and cameras have surely prevented thousands upon thousands of accidents and property damage. Same can be said for blind spot cameras and sensors. With all of these features I just listed, there’s certainly millions of dollars saved, and I’m sure thousands of lives spared as well.

We’ve had cruise control on our vehicles for years, which is probably the first automation we saw in the auto industry. The recent features being added can’t just be taken for granted, and we still need to be aware when we drive. But, as with most things, having a little help along the way doesn’t hurt.

Gerke: Just use good driving habits

I think we can all agree, there are some pretty terrible drivers out there.  Between texting and driving, folks not paying attention and inexperienced drivers, statistics show serious or deadly accidents occur too frequently. 

Car makers have started offering things like lane departure warnings and automatic braking, but should those things become the standard on all vehicles? I say no for a couple of reasons.

Last month we took a road trip through six states and back, and at least two of those states had active “drive for zero” campaigns clearly marked along the interstates.  Nebraska has a similar goal of “toward zero deaths” as displayed on their 2018 Traffic Crash Facts Annual Report. 

According to the report, their goals are to increase seatbelt use and reduce lane departure, impaired driving, intersection and young driver crashes. 

Back in 1984, New York was the first state to require seat belt use. Nebraska followed in 1985, but voters repealed the law the following year.  The current law was passed in 1993 Statistics show seat belts save 50 percent of lives and their use is a good habit to have. 

I also support their other goals of decreasing the aforementioned crashes, but that should be done through good habits, not mechanical means. 

Toyota and Ford — among others — have been involved in seat belt failure lawsuits, so we know mechanical failures happen in vehicles.  I believe putting features like lane departure and automatic braking in all vehicles will cause drivers to become less invested in their good driving habits and force bad driving habits to take over.  And, once bad habits are set, and the feature fails, that is an accident most likely to happen. 

One of my pet peeves is someone who cannot maintain a consistent speed on the road.  That is a perfect example of me being spoiled by cruise control, and the other driver perhaps spoiled by it as well and not able to maintain a consistent speed without it. 

If you’re tired, or otherwise impaired, stay out of the vehicle.  If you cannot concentrate on the road and other vehicles around you, stay out of the vehicle.  Relying on mechanical features instead of good driving habits puts your life, as well as mine, at risk.  Please don’t count on the vehicle to do the work and pay attention on the road.

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