The Insider: Technological Revolution
No matter how clever the latest technology might be, there’s a little experience needed to get past those initial trust issues, The Insider explains.
We’ve read lots of articles recently about the latest automotive technologies, many of which will be hugely useful to fleet operators and company car drivers.
But it does feel that the latest vehicle technology is a great leap forward in terms of complexity and indeed cost, while some of the tech requires a degree of trust that the vehicle will do what it is programmed to do. I wouldn’t say I’m a luddite, but think I really appreciate technology when it adds a positive benefit to our lives. However, I don’t want our learned, experiential driving skills being overtaken by a clever super-computer – a little like “Video Killed The Radio Star”, the Buggles hit from the 80’s. Let’s have technological progress, but let it be complementary.
To dispel any trace of inner luddite, I recently evaluated some vehicles with their nascent technology and I have to say, overall, I’m impressed from both a driver and operator perspective.
The first featured connected technology. Once I’d signed up to the slightly onerous terms and conditions, I found this pretty helpful. Arriving well ahead of schedule at a recent meeting in a large town, the concierge facility found and sent me to my favourite coffee outlet via the sat nav – very neat.
A colleague of mine has a similar car and had unfortunately experienced a theft from her drive – a distressing experience. But because her car featured this technology, she was able to pass the crime reference number on to the manufacturer, who tracked the car and immobilised it once the key was out of the ignition. Its location was also passed on, and the thief was caught red-handed with the car returned to its owner, demonstrating how useful it can be for operators.
Automation is also growing apace, helped by NCAP ratings, but also genuine safety improvements. The next car I drove had a reversing camera, which was a simple but effective tool for urban-based operators where the preponderance of parking accidents occur. It also had predictive cruise control where, in addition to reading road signs to maintain the correct speed, it was able to use sophisticated mapping technology to automatically reduce speed for sharper corners. I have to say, on the ghastly A17 with its speed cameras and caravans, the car coped brilliantly, maintaining a safe distance to the car in front and speeding up and down appropriately. Great for avoiding speeding fines and penalty points and keeping on good terms with the fleet manager.
However, on one occasion I decided against following the sat nav as I could see heavy congestion at a forthcoming roundabout, continuing instead to the next exit to save time. Unfortunately, the sat nav wasn’t as sophisticated as I assumed and it thought I’d taken the slip road towards the roundabout. It thought I was approaching the roundabout, braking severely at 70mph and startling myself and the driver behind me. I quickly resumed my trust, but it did show that the technology still needs fine tuning.
So, my experience was positive overall, and there are clear benefits to both drivers and operators. And while motoring home the other day, I heard the electro dance band Underworld have collaborated with legendary rock wild child, Iggy Pop and produced an amazing EP, proving that the new can work with the experienced. A bit like vehicle technology, it just takes getting used to.