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Are new vehicles crossing the line?

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Woody's Workshop

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Places to plug computers, MP3 players, navigation, touch screen, internet capable, TV and more.
Seams to me that car manufactures are crossing a line here, putting things in vehicles that is taking away from the concentration of the driver.
When it is illegal to use your phone and text, (or even go without a seat belt) this is all stuff that worries me when I'm on the road.
More than 1/2 the people I meet on a 2 lane road don't even have their eyes on the road!
And I'm not kidding! On the way back from a doctors appointment last week, I was almost rear ended.
A car slowed and came to a stop in front of me to wait for someone in front of them to turn left.
The idiot behind me saw me stopped at the last second and ran threw the ditch, narrowly missing me.
As I watched the idiot in my rear view mirror get closer and closer not slowing down, I could see he was messing with something in the middle of his dash.

It pisses me off to no end that there are laws for us drivers not to use the tech that is thrown in front us...
But no laws to prevent manufactures of putting tech in a car the driver can't access.
It's one thing for passengers to able to use it, but not the driver!
How hard would it be to put tech in a car that senses when the driver isn't focused on the windshield or mirrors, the car shuts off?
So give it a 1 second delay because you blink, glance at the time, etc.
But no more, because how far can you travel at 70mph in 1 second? 2 seconds? 3 seconds?

Nope, put the tech behind the drivers seat and nothing but driving controls in the front. Problem solved.
And crap on saying they need it when not driving because these new super phones does everything!
If it's there, driving or not, it will get used and concentration will be taken off your driving.
And I know there's people reading this that have done it!
And I know people reading this that is in control of 80,000 lbs or more does it!
 

ttabbal

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Most of the setups I have seen in newer cars prevent the more complex stuff from being used while the car is moving. You can change climate control, music stuff, but that's about it. When stopped, the other things are available. It's kind of annoying for navigation, as my passenger can't set the destination etc while in motion, but I understand why. The things that can be changed, are supposed to require less attention to use. As such, I don't think it's much worse than older vehicles. They had radios you can change the channels on, clocks, other instruments, mirrors, climate control...

One thing I thought was really stupid in the new cars though, displaying the artist/song titles. Not that they do it, but how they do it. If I'm stopped, it shows the whole thing at once. If moving, it scrolls a single line. That scroll takes a LOT more attention to read, which, granted, you shouldn't probably be doing anyway, but if you are trying to make it safer, just remove it while moving, or leave the whole thing up so you can read it at a glance. Having a small scroll is about the worst possible option.

What has changed is portable devices. Smartphones, tablets, etc.. People mess with them while driving. In your case, the driver could have mounted the phone on the dash, which is pretty common.

As for disabling the vehicle if the driver isn't paying attention, harder than you think. It's a complex problem for a computer to tell what a human is doing with any accuracy. And what do you do if they aren't? You can't just turn off the engine, that can cause an accident just as easily as playing with a phone. In modern cars it also kills power steering, braking, etc.. You could beep, put up warning lights etc... People will ignore or disable those though as they WILL get false positives. For example, my newest car has a lane departure warning. My wife disables it because it goes off when it shouldn't. Now, I could say that in many cases it's right, however, it doesn't take a lot of times for it to be wrong before people get irritated and turn off things like that. If it can't detect the lines on the road, how will it tell where I'm looking?

I honestly think the best thing to happen to transportation will be self-driving vehicles that the humans can't control. We're a ways from that still, but it's coming.
 

Flyfalcons

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From a human factors perspective, it is much less distracting to have a physical button, switch, or knob to control something than having to use a touchscreen and sometimes access a sub-menu to accomplish the same task.
 

jrkennedy2

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Brutal but effective way to limit phone distraction. Limit phone conversation to only Bluetooth when exceeding 10 mph. Disable the keypad/screen when exceeding 10 mph. This limits the dialing out and texting on the phone (distractions) when moving faster that 10 mph. The "smart" phones know how fast you are going and they can be programmed to do these things. So, I have heard, "what about a passenger?" "Why should they be inconvenienced?" I don't buy it. That is like saying its OK for a passenger to have an open beer. Tell that to a Trooper, "it's his beer sir, not mine!" Society has allowed distracted driving to become such a problem that very inconvenient measures may have to be taken if society really cares about injuries caused by distracted driving.

Stepping off my soap box now before I fall off.
 

Nytrunner

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If a car can sense that there's someone in the passenger seat and tell them to put on a seat belt, It could perhaps allow console functions to be accessed when there's a passenger.

Of course there are ways to get around this which will be exploited as well because a good fraction of the population takes any restriction as a challenge. Heck, my brother's prius would try to tell his backpack to buckle up if he put it in the front seat....
 

crossfire

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One thing with all the great stuff they put in a car why can't the car tell you when outside lights are burnt out? brake lights, signal lights,???
 

Woody's Workshop

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My personal feelings on the whole thing is the lack of law where manufacturers are concerned.
Lawmakers need to be able to approve the installation of new tech, and instruct on disabling features to make the driver pay attention to driving, not the tech in the car.
Even hands free phone usage by the driver is distracting because your attention isn't 100% on driving and reading signage.
 

rstaff3

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If you ignore the guy who wrecked his Tesla while watching a video it seems to most of the tech that a car provides is equally accessible with a portable device. Then you have to consider all the other tech like collision detect, lane change warnings, etc that help safety.
 

ksaves2

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I pull over to make a call and don't turn on the cell while in the vehicle. Only thing I'm worried about is if the constabulary goes after me for referring to a GPS on the dash. Kurt
 

Woody's Workshop

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If you ignore the guy who wrecked his Tesla while watching a video it seems to most of the tech that a car provides is equally accessible with a portable device. Then you have to consider all the other tech like collision detect, lane change warnings, etc that help safety.
If people are paying attention to their driving, these things would not be needed. I will say, a heart monitor can be installed on the steering wheel if/when someone experiences a heart problem while driving. This tech exists because the bike I ride at PT monitors my heart rate, breathing rate and oxygen level.

I pull over to make a call and don't turn on the cell while in the vehicle. Only thing I'm worried about is if the constabulary goes after me for referring to a GPS on the dash. Kurt
GPS talks to you, tells you when to turn. Some cars can almost have a conversation with you. The screen should go black when in motion so not to draw your eyes from the road.
 

Q-Aero

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Brutal but effective way to limit phone distraction. Limit phone conversation to only Bluetooth when exceeding 10 mph.
I read recently that someone is suing Apple saying that Apple have a way to block phone usage when it move, but don't enforce it and it's their responsibility in the death of families members. But it will probably go no where.
 

modeltrains

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My personal feelings on the whole thing is the lack of law where manufacturers are concerned.
Right, we humans are by definition all incompetent and need the government to legislate everything down to how many seconds apart our inhalations are because we are too stupid to know how to properly and wisely inhale.

I have no self control so I need the government to control me for me.
 

mkadams001

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Not that much to worry about. We won't be driving cars at all in a few years.
 

cbrarick

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If people are paying attention to their driving, these things would not be needed. I will say, a heart monitor can be installed on the steering wheel if/when someone experiences a heart problem while driving. This tech exists because the bike I ride at PT monitors my heart rate, breathing rate and oxygen level.
incidence of that happening and causing a crash: zero in my 36 years as a firefighter/emt. they pull over and call 911 along with passing motorists....I bet and the incidence of Arrhythmia causing fatal collisions is too small for the government to mandate. The technology would be difficult, because then you have to deal with one handed driving, two handed driving (where you take a hand off the wheel when you make a turn, both aren't always in contact with the wheel), intermittent two handed driving and the dorks who use their knee. Then, if it sensed a problem, what would it do? It would also be a problem for auto makers because you've just turned their product into a medical device. Now they pick up liability for false positives that do what ever to the vehicle causing a crash, as well as false negatives that have a impact on the driver's health. Plus, johnny public would be upset that you removed his leather wrapped steering wheel and replaced it with one that is an electrode.
An interesting idea, but one I doubt you will ever see on a car.
self driving is definitely the way to go. You could classify almost every "accident" I've seen to either driving under the influence, distracted driving, driving too fast for the conditions, overly aggressive driving or human error. I bet I've only seen a handful of crashes where it was the car's fault or a deer jumped in front of them.......
 

Woody's Workshop

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I could see that being a problem in some situations with one handed driving.
My father delivered mail on a roule route and sat on the right side of the care, steering with his left hand, and peddling with only his left foot.
They are telling us that the 3 & 9 o'clock positions are the best driving. I was tought 2 & 10.
I find it very fatiguing to drive at 3 & 9 and can turn the wheel farther one way or the other one handed before going into hand over hand.
I would assume that it would monitor for a length of time and not be instantaneous.
And there would only need to be spots on the wheel that needed to be electrodes, and that could be on the back side so the leather would be seen.
But you are correct that it we'll never see such tech. Auto driving vehicles, I don't go for.
I enjoy the drive. I buy manual transmissions for 2 reasons. It's funner to drive, and for longevity. My 98 Ranger has 350k on it and never touched the trany.
I've never gotten more than 20k out of an automatic transmission, we just don't get along.
 

TangoJuliet

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I ride a motorcycle (and for almost two years that was the only vehicle I owned), and the amount of distracted driving these days, compared to 25 years ago is truly horrifying! I've wondered, like Woody, if automobile manufacturer's aren't culpable to some degree, despite the claims that the newer technology is supposed to make driving safer. But I don't know if that's really fair either. It also seems to me that far too many drivers a) aren't taught properly, and b) there's not enough enforcement of the simpler traffic laws already on the books, and thus perpetuating the problem.

About 6 years ago I was dating a woman with a teenage son. When I was his age I had the benefit of a school sponsored "Student Driver" program. Unfortunately, he didn't have that option. His Mom worked out of country quite often, so it fell on me to try to teach him to drive. This kid was/is smart as a whip (he got a full academic scholarship at graduation), but book smart. He thought just reading the drivers manual would be all he needed to do to be able to drive. Once we started actually operating a vehicle, he understood otherwise. After almost a year, he still scared the hell out of me! There is no way I would have passed this kid the first time he took his drivers exam! I don't even think the examiner made him drive prior to taking the written exam!


That leads me to another observation. It seems to me to be especially true in the southeastern region of the US, that many young drivers are taught by family members, who themselves were taught by family members to drive. As testing/examinations appear to have become more lax with each generation, this "home schooling" of future drivers exacerbates the problem. Bad driving habits get passed from generation to generation without any of them knowing that they're doing something wrong, or even illegal. Then when/if they're finally approached by law enforcement, they over-react and claim the officer is in the wrong!


I travel quite a bit for work myself and I see all manner of improper driving technique, and it's rampant! People who don't accelerate to highway speed when on an "on ramp" to the interstate and then come to a complete stop because they can't merge into traffic. I guess they don't know the difference between accelerating quickly and actually speeding :facepalm:. Or the people who stay in the left lane of the interstate! Or people who make a right turn into the far left lane instead of into the near right lane!


Driving is a privilege, not a right! And people need to learn that. If you're not going to use it properly, it needs to be taken away.
 

EXPjawa

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One thing with all the great stuff they put in a car why can't the car tell you when outside lights are burnt out? brake lights, signal lights,???
Mine can, 2005 BMW X5
My old 1987 Ford Escort had that feature - there was panel on the console with a bunch of LEDs behind a silhouette of a Pinto (of all things) that would light up if a bulb was out. Mustangs of the era had the "Pinto Panel" as well. These sorts of things are really just a matter of what can be pulled off as novel, impressive-looking tech. Though, it seems like it would be easy enough to tie in the message center of any car today. Today, cars can let you know if your coolant is low, or washer fluid is low, and of course, if your tire pressure is off. Adding bulb outage would be easy, if it seemed worthwhile.

I'll also comment on 9 and 3 positions - I've long felt that a number of areas of driver ed instruction were flawed. The old 10 & 2 is one of them. If any of you actually sign up for professional driving instruction (read: race training), you will very quickly be taught that a baseline position of 9 & 3 is preferred, as it allows you to readily turn the wheel 180 degrees without relocating your hands. It also puts your hands in ideal locations for quickly shuffling to add further steering input without removing your hands from the wheel (hand over hand technique is also flawed). These techniques are all about maintaining control over the wheel and being able to steer and react quickly with precision. If you find this position uncomfortable, you may be too far away from the steering wheel. There is an entirely separate conversion about proper seating position...

Oh, one other comment for Woody that is still doesn't directly address the original post - I got 352K miles on my '98 Explorer (which is largely Ranger underneath), and that's with the original - automatic - transmission. I did replace the transfer case twice and the rear axle once. But the auto gear box, no issues. Given the level of validation that goes into powertrain development these days, if you can't get more than 20K miles out of an automatic transmission, you're seriously doing it wrong, in ways I can't begin to fathom. However, you might be able to get a job at Ford's ATNPC as a product tester...

I do agree with your general theme, though, that driver distraction should be minimized. It shouldn't have to be regulated, but drivers in general have proven that they aren't capable of helping themselves. Manufacturers add tech features simply because it gives them a competitive advantage for marketing. You do occasionally see new features removed from subsequent models because it turned out to be a bad idea. Unfortunately, all of the added features that the government layers on to make cars "safer" simply reduce the ability of drivers to operate safely, as they become too dependent on safety features. Back up cameras are good example - yes they're handy, but too many people don't look out the window anymore. Its a viscous circle, and really is only properly regulated by stricter requirements for driver testing, backed by driver education that's actually effective. But that's its own set of problems. Ultimately, people need to be taught to take responsibility for actually driving, or they don't get to drive. That's my take.

Anyway, I say all this as an automotive engineer that has spent a lot of time doing vehicle dynamics test work and a lot of time in competitive motorsports. I freely admit that it colors my views on the topic.
 

TangoJuliet

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Unfortunately, all of the added features that the government layers on to make cars "safer" simply reduce the ability of drivers to operate safely, as they become too dependent on safety features. Back up cameras are good example - yes they're handy, but too many people don't look out the window anymore. Its a viscous circle, and really is only properly regulated by stricter requirements for driver testing, backed by driver education that's actually effective. But that's its own set of problems. Ultimately, people need to be taught to take responsibility for actually driving, or they don't get to drive. That's my take.
Exactly!

I can back my 2013 Dodge Caravan, without back-up camera, into a parking space, perfectly spaced between the lines, only using my mirrors and/or turning my head and looking out the windows; and I can do it consistently better than the lady who is often parked next to me and pulls in to her parking space, rarely straight, and even more rarely evenly spaced between the lines!

Bottom line, people just don't know how to operate an automobile properly! And/or they don't care either!
 

EXPjawa

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The vast majority of people on the road are simply not qualified to be there. There are very few people in my own circles that I truly trust to drive a car safely and effectively (my father is one of them, but he's gone the extra mile with a CDL and drives a school bus). I guess that's neither here or there. Going back to comments made above, people seem to consider driving a right when it should indeed be a privilege. They neither appreciate the sheer physics of what they're attempting or the ramifications of when it goes wrong. I often say that the laws of physics bend for no one, but it becomes very apparent on the road.

Another tie-in to comments above. I've owned a number of motorcycles over the years, though I'm not an active rider now. When I was riding, the combination of self-awareness, situational awareness and a fairly high seating position really opened my eyes up to just how many drivers aren't focused on the task at hand. Texting, playing with the radio, reading, eating cereal (bowl & spoon!), its pretty scary when you start to really notice this stuff. As a responsible rider, you learn to stay away from these folks but don't loose track of them. Ultimately, that still wasn't why I stopped riding. It was more than not that I was finding that on nice days, conducive to riding, I was riding my bicycle instead. The last year I had my last bike, the only time I rode it that season was to take it to the dealer for state inspection, but I digress...
 

Steven

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I've been using the same measure for this problem as I have for quitting drinking, smoking and drugs, I just say no and leave my phone at home. I have CHOSEN to take back control of my life by not allowing these issues to control me. It's all about K.I.S.S. and it DOES work!
 

Bat-mite

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Now we just need them to fly, and we'll be living in the Jetsons world!
 

dr wogz

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I have a slew of opinions on this.. one of my pet peeves!!

The one comment I will make at this particular point is the regulations. It's a government thing. And the amount of 'opposition' from the populace usually makes it go away, especially in an election year.. And, with our 'democratic' system, the official opposition will oppose the new rule, as that's what they 'r supposed to do.. come up with some fight as to why it shouldn't be 'law'.. Not to mention certain lobby groups that will band together to shoot down the amendment because of added costs, retooling, loss of sales, etc..
 

TangoJuliet

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I am convinced that if everyone were required to ride a motorcycle for a minimum of two months, with no other form of transportation available to them, it would make them better, more aware drivers!
 

dhbarr

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I am convinced that if everyone were required to ride a motorcycle for a minimum of two months, with no other form of transportation available to them, it would make them better, more aware drivers!
Weird how smaller things which can see better and react quicker are so much more responsive. It's almost like an engineering tradeoff, or something....
 

rstaff3

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If people are paying attention to their driving, these things would not be needed. I will say, a heart monitor can be installed on the steering wheel if/when someone experiences a heart problem while driving. This tech exists because the bike I ride at PT monitors my heart rate, breathing rate and oxygen level.



GPS talks to you, tells you when to turn. Some cars can almost have a conversation with you. The screen should go black when in motion so not to draw your eyes from the road.
You are right about the warnings not being needed if everyone is perfectly aware 100% of the time. But I was commenting that all tech isn't bad. And the tech that was the subject of this post is not to blame. For example...people who are going to be distracted because of a phone hook up would just do the same thing with a phone in their hands.
 

ttabbal

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I used to think that making people ride motorcycles might help. Then I started seeing people doing things like reading full size newspapers, completely open over the wheel, while 70+ on the freeway. And motorcyclists weaving through traffic at >40MPH speed differences, without any gear (no helmet laws here). A few tenths of a second off, and they are toast. And it does happen. And then there's the ones I see on one wheel on the freeway at 70+. sigh...

I am now of the opinion that the only solution to make vehicles safer is to remove the humans from the controls. There are enough of them being willfully stupid and selfish that even if everyone else is perfect, they will kill someone. And everyone else is not perfect. Self driving vehicles aren't perfect either, but even what we have now are better than humans at driving. The problem is that driving is a monotonous affair for most people. So they want something to make it more interesting. Some use music, that's mostly harmless. Some use tech, and kill people. Others go with reckless driving requiring fast reflex action, and kill people. Others zone out and kill people. All that because humans suck at going from bored to focused and making good decisions in milliseconds.

You could try to fix the humans, but with an atmosphere of zero personal responsibility out there, I don't see it happening. There are stiff fines here for distracted driving, texting etc., but I see it every day. Laws only work when people agree to follow them. There just aren't enough police to prevent widespread disobedience, even if you want to assume they are perfect. And I'm not sure I would want that many police officers. A police state is not a valid solution, it just escalates the problem.
 

Peartree

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My engineering magazine puts out an annual issue on automotive tech.

So far, the weirdest thing I've seen is that in most states, a backup camera, by law, cannot be turned on if the car is in Drive but only turns on when in Reverse. I think it's meant to prevent people from being distracted, but many of these systems are sold to attach to a trailer. Trailers block any view through the rear-view mirror (duh) so having a camera on the back of the trailer that is always on and performs the same function as a mirror would seem to be a safety feature and not a distraction.

Nevertheless, they are illegal to use that way.
 
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