Thursday, August 23, 2012

Will Self-Driving Cars Really Be the Norm?

Can you imagine driving down the freeway in the driver's seat reading your Kindle or catching up with your friends latest posts on Facebook, without the worry of getting into a collision? It seems strange, but self-driving cars could make that possible much sooner than we ever imagined.

According to this recent report published by KPMG and the Center for Automotive Research, the auto industry is on the cusp of revolutionary change, and the revolution will be characterized by the introduction of self-driving vehicles. It sounds far fetched, but industry leaders envision a fully self-driving vehicle as early as 2025.

The KPMG report suggests that the marketplace will not only accept self-driving cars, but will be the "engine pulling the industry forward." However, I am not convinced. As a consumer, I can't say that I would fully trust my life to a "driving computer" no matter how great the technology. Humans are not perfect, but we like to make decisions for ourselves. I also think there's a lot to say for driving because you enjoy it. Nobody likes being stuck in rush-hour traffic, but I'd bet a lot of people enjoy driving down the open road. Not to mention that the cost of these types of technologies may far exceed what many people would be willing to pay. Perhaps things may change down the road, but I think it's going to be a long time before your average person will be purchasing a fully self-driving car.

I would welcome autonomous driving technologies, but I can't imagine sitting back and reading the newspaper while my car makes all the decisions. I agree with Tom Baloga, BMW's U.S. vice president of engineering, in that "We will always be the ultimate driving machine."

What do you think?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Teach Your Teen: What Your Lane Position Says About You

Lane Positions: Getting on the Same Page
If you're like me, you spent most of your life not knowing anything about lane positions. Then I became a driving instructor. Now you're teaching your teen. So it's time to put a name to something you don't even realize you already know....There's actually a name for your car's position on the roadway. The names aren't very original. But that's okay. They're easy to remember.
  1. Driving in the center of your lane is technically referred to as driving in lane position one (LP1).
  2. Hugging the left side of the lane is LP2.
  3. Hugging the right edge of the lane is LP3.

I'm only giving you  three, but keep in mind that some fanatics add a fourth and fifth as you cross the lane lines on either side.

Drivers alter their lane positions for many reasons. 
If you are driving in the center of your lane in normal conditions, the position and speed of your car tells other roadway users that they can trust you. If you pass a parked car or bicycle and move to LP2 and reduce speed, you show that you are considerate. When you see that oncoming traffic includes a mobile home on a large truck and you move to LP3, you indicate comprehension that bigger vehicles will squash you if there was a collision.

Bottom line, you will intuitively trust or be wary of other drivers depending on the cues their driving habits send you.

Vehicle Body Language VS. Verbal Language
We're all familiar with distracted drivers who put on their turn signals to change lanes and then forgot to turn it off. It's almost like they're saying, "Hey I'm turning, yup gonna turn any second, just you wait, I'm getting ready to turn." We adjust our driving to give them space but the signal keeps blinking while they're oblivious. After a few seconds we don't trust them anymore. We don't trust them because body language (position of the car) always trumps verbal language (blinkers).

I know a car is going to turn right at a stop sign when it gets into LP3, slows down, the wheels are turned to the right and the driver makes a head check. It doesn't matter if  he has a turn signal on or not. His body language tells me exactly what to expect.

Help Your Teen Recognize What Specific Behaviors Mean.
  • Drivers who weave in and out of traffic, maintain high speeds relative to traffic flow, and tailgate are aggressive and should not to be trusted. Let them pass you. You'll breathe a lot easier without the pressure building behind you.
  • Drivers looking down frequently may be texting, looking at a map or even reading. Build your space cushion around you (especially on the freeway) so that if their distraction causes a collision then you won't be a part of it.
  • Drivers who turn left from LP1 or LP3 may be unfamiliar with their destination or not have much driving experience. Show them extra caution since they may do something unexpected.
  • Drivers who don't slow down at stop signs will either not stop or will stop well over the stop line. Be careful if you are a pedestrian.
  • Drivers who pass bicycles by crossing the center line (essentially giving them ten feet of space) do not understand how big their vehicle is. The average lane is 12 feet wide. The average car is 6 feet wide. A semi-truck is 8 feet wide. Hugging LP2 while passing a bike will give the rider approximately 6 feet of space, which is double the minimum 3 feet required by law.
  • Of course, each driver and situation is different. The more frequently you work with your teens on assessing the driving behavior of others, the better they will learn to evaluate their own driving and make corrections as needed.

Anticipate Other Drivers Actions
How do you know a car is really going to stop at an intersection? Or turn? Or make a lane change? Look at the following factors to help you know how to adjust your own driving:
  1. Vehicle speed (too fast, too slow, just right) 
  2. Direction of the tires (straight or turning)
  3. Lane position (LP1, LP2, LP3)
  4. Signal lights (turning, braking, backing)
  5. The eyes have it (Do other drivers see you? The pedestrians? The bicycles? The road construction?) 

Practice answering these questions about other drivers for the next week. Does their behavior show they know what they're doing? Or are they putting out mixed signals? Knowing the answers will build years to your experience level in just a few short days.

So, just what does your lane position say about you? 
Whether or not I should trust you, of course.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why Don't School Buses Have Seat Belts?

How come children on school buses don't need to buckle up? I couldn't leave the birth center without a car seat for my infant. I struggle to get my 3 year old to leave her belt buckled. We stress safety...but when my 5 year old gets on the bus to go to school for the first time, he learns that he doesn't always need to buckle up. We're sending our children mixed signals. Mine in particular are confused. They actually unbuckle as soon as we pull into our neighborhood and say, "we don't have to wear our seat belts as soon as we pass the mailbox." And I'm left wondering where they got that impression and trying to get them back in their seats.

If seat belts truly save so many lives (and I believe they do), then it's time to apply the seat belt laws across the board. My kids spend more time on the school bus than in my car. Busses should be equipped with safety belts and children secured.

The anti-seat-belts-on-school-buses crowd says buses are safer than cars. They're big. They're yellow. They have better crash rates. Bus drivers are also supposed to focus on driving rather than making kids buckle up. Plus it'd be too expensive to put seat belts into buses. Ehem. Really? That's a lame argument. Just ask any parent who's lost a child.

The pro-seat-belts-on-school-buses crowd says those crash rates are misleading. Most serious crashes happen at night and on weekends, as well as during the months of July and August. School buses usually don't operate during those times and private vehicles do. Thus the numbers don't give a fair comparison. Dr. Arthur Yeager has made it his life's work to change the status quo. His argument to install school bus seatbelts is quite convincing. Compartmentalizing children in thickly padded high back seats does nothing to cushion kids from side impact and roll-over collisions. It only works if the kid stays in the compartment. Like they do when wearing a seat belt.

About 20 years ago, New Jersey mandated that all new school buses be equipped with seat belts. It turns out that having kids buckle up reduced behavior problems...and bus drivers spent more time focusing on the driving task and less time disciplining. I find the same thing is true when my kids aren't crawling over seats and kicking their siblings while I'm driving.

So, back to the main question. Why don't school buses have seat belts? Because we haven't banded together to make it happen. Consider visiting the National Coalition for School Bus Safety's website and joining their cause. That or drive your kids to school every day. Just take into consideration that one is easier to do than the other.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...