Run Amok-Do Drivers Really Need Advanced Driver Assist Systems to Safely Drive?

We live in a very trendy world these days, where the establishment of a first-to-market product does not guarantee exclusivity for very long. Other companies are always on the lookout for new ideas and have no qualms about jumping on the proverbial bandwagon of a product that is gaining in popularity.
Ford ADAS 7 photos
Photo: Ford Media
Ford Co-Pilot360Ford F-150Ford Co-Pilot360Ford F-150Ford Mustang Mach EFord Co-Pilot360
Perhaps no industry comes close to this in terms of regularity than the automotive manufacturing industry and one of the most popular trends is equipping vehicles with driver assist features under the guise that vehicles equipped with such systems are safer. That may be true in certain circumstances, but they also make vehicles much more expensive to purchase, repair in the event of an accident, and insure.

In industry lingo, these systems are known as Advanced Driver Assistant Systems and true to form, come with their very own acronym: ADAS. In the early days, these systems had some worthy applications in the form of anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and traction control, both of which are mechanical in nature and certainly worthy in terms of safety. The advent of a cruise control feature that enables drivers to set a constant speed of a vehicle on long stretches of highway was certainly convenient.

Over the last decade or so, and especially in the last couple of years, the features being added have gotten ridiculously out of hand. Maybe automotive manufacturers have realized that just because a person is at the wheel of a car with the proper license does not mean that person has the ability to safely operate a motorized vehicle. We have all been passengers in vehicles where we 'white knuckled it' until we reached an intended destination because the driver simply had no spatial awareness whatsoever.

I was a passenger on one occasion, just one, with a lifelong friend who had absolutely no business behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. It was so bad, that after reaching our destination, I walked around his car looking for damage, knowing for sure that he must have hit something in the past. I didn't find any, but I also noticed the ten-day temporary dealer plate indicating he had just purchased the car.

Over the last several weeks I have looked into the various ADAS on some of the most popular vehicles out there on the roadways and came away with one thought. Anyone who needs to use ADAS features to get safely from point A to point B should not be behind the wheel in the first place. Apparently, the rearview mirror and side mirrors are not adequate tools for safe driving... for some people.

I looked at Ford Motor Company's highly touted Ford Co-Pilot360 Technology ADAS offering, which is accompanied on Ford's website, with the slogan “It's Technology That's There to Help You.” Ok Fine. By the way, I only chose the Co-Pilot360 from all of the others out there for the sheer humor in the way the boys in Dearborn present the system on the Ford website.

The first feature of Co-pilot 360 is BlueCruise (too short for an acronym) that handles cruise control in stop-and-go traffic conditions and lane centering along with speed sign recognition. What? Someone out there thought vehicles need a camera to read a speed limit sign? Do people who cannot read or don't pay attention to such signs actually drive? If so, I didn't know. BlueCruise per the website, “allows you to operate your vehicle hands-free while being monitored by a driver-facing camera to make sure you are keeping your eyes on the road.” Who in their right mind wants to do that? If your eyes are on the road, why wouldn't your hands be on the steering wheel? Not only is unnatural, but psychologically adverse.

Co-Pilot360's Blind Spot Information System feature, with its very own acronym BSIL, is meant to aid a driver in making a safe lane change without having to bother your passenger by asking “Can I get over?” Apparently, Ford wants drivers to respect their passengers' time and does not think they can rely on their own judgment utilizing mirrors.

The Lane Keeping System (not worthy of an acronym) keeps the vehicle centered as the Ford website notes, “you are caught up into listening to your favorite podcast or you need morning latte.” After drifting a couple of times, a coffee cup icon will appear somewhere (but the driver will not see it because they are falling asleep), letting you know it's time to take a break. How about going all the way by having the system take control of the vehicle and pull it off the road before opening a roof hatch and ejecting the driver?

Let's move on to the Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) feature. This feature will scan the road ahead and apply the brakes automatically if a frontal collision is imminent. Heaven forbid if there is a faulty sensor that triggers this response. The website calms all fears by stating “But don't worry – they'll only activate if they're needed.

There is also a parallel parking feature where the vehicle will be taken over by the system and parallel park it for you. I know in the States, if you cannot parallel park, you do not get a license. Now maybe that has changed with these new ADAS features, but if you are unable to parallel park a vehicle on your own and you cannot trust a passenger who may or may not have the time to exit the vehicle and help guide you or you are alone, find another parking space.

Those are just a few of the twelve features of the Ford ADAS available on most Ford models and it is highly rated. In fact, the Co-Pilot360 in Ford's Mustang Mach-E ranks right up there with Mercedes-Benz's Drive Pilot on various sites, but are these systems necessary, or are they just another marketable bell-and-whistle package?

Think about it, have you ever rented or owned a car equipped with a camera that turns on when you are backing up showing what is behind you, that you never ever looked at?

The most appropriate name for systems of this kind with accompanying acronyms should be Driving for Dummies System or DDS; apologies to all my dentist friends out there.
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