Non-Safety Aids

As with a lot of engineers I run a tatty old car.

Apart from the undoubted pleasure of not only being able to fix them, rather than buying and installing a new black box under the bonnet every time one of the myriad mystical runes displays itself on the dashboard, there is the additional bonus that they do need fixing a bit more often.

With our insight we also know that it takes less of the planet’s resources to keep an old car running than buying a new one, so we can even smile smugly as we leave the latest hybrid behind in a haze of barely burned hydrocarbons.

The recent cold spell has, for me, brought to the fore a specific difference between old and new cars – or rather a difference evoked in the driver.

Obviously I notice when the roads are a bit slippery, in fact one of the reasons I enjoy driving my particular chariot is exactly because of the level of feedback I experience. I have to say that in addition it rather focuses one’s mind knowing that crumple zones are less than generous and the only thing between the driver and a hasty demise is how gently you apply the unfiltered control inputs.  

This morning I was heading up the dual carriageway when I was overtaken by a Golf scudding along at a rate of knots with the driver drinking a coffee. I certainly wouldn’t claim to have been near the ragged edge (such things aren’t for the morning commute) but the speed differential was so great I suspect her dashboard was lit up like a Christmas tree as all the electronic gee-gaws did their best to stop her from smearing herself up the central barrier. Or indeed rolling the car up into a ball as it flew off in a parabolic arc over the boondocks.

This is all well and good, in some ways demonstrating why this technology is essential for the general public. What happens though when all the computers under the bonnet breath a collective sigh of resignation and hold up their virtual hands in resignation to the inevitable? After all, as one learned philosopher was fond of saying “Ye canna change the laws of physics.”

Miss Carefree-Commuter (the driver being female in this case, other genders of idiotic driver are available) will be unaware of just where the limits are and anyway is unengaged from actively driving as she is so cosseted in this.

Add the fact that “when it all goes Pete Tong” she will be travelling at a high speed then a sudden breach of the limits will make rather a nasty mess of something or other, quite possibly her. With the proliferation of the safety aids that lead to this scenario there is little wonder new cars have so many air bags these days.