The latest cars cannot drive themselves


The latest semi-autonomous cars can NOT drive themselves – be careful when testing their technology!


While we all read, with interest, the developments in autonomous driving and also, no doubt, wish that these vehicles were available in South Africa, we are reminded that we still have many hurdles to overcome.


Some of the vehicles we have in SA are semi-autonomous. Yet, while it’s great to test their technology, there are a few words of warning so be cautious of the “marketing hype” and never – I repeat never – allow your conscious component of driving to slip to the point where the car has total control. This is even with proven technology such as ‘adaptive cruise control’.


Overestimating what your latest car can do is a terrifyingly good way to kill yourself or somebody else.


Even driving with one hand off the wheel increases reaction time and reduces a driver’s ability to respond to a sudden crisis such as a front tyre blowout. Neither Tesla’s nor other semi-autonomous cars are anywhere near the ability to drive themselves. That’s why they are called semi-autonomous rather than fully-autonomous!


Having a car that uses cameras to monitor lane lines or the shoulder line to keep you in the lane doesn’t work if the lines are worn-out or missing (perhaps due to patches of new tar). Nor may it work if rain or dirt has partially blocked the lenses of the cameras in question.


If you are feeling drowsy, please don’t trust your car’s gadgets. They are nowhere close to that extent of trust yet, and are not likely to be for many more years than automakers would currently like you to believe!


If you need time to relax, find somewhere safe to stop, and do it the old-fashioned way!


The same applies to letting yourself be distracted at the wheel. Please remember that it is not just your own life you are gambling with.


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