Saturday, August 8, 2009

Invasive creature or standard feature? Small cars and vehicle stability control, traction control, and ABS.

With the news about the latest updates to the 2010 Toyota Yaris, an interesting discussion has started in the comments section regarding standard driving aides/safety features such as vehicle stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes. More and more cars, including the inexpensive subcompacts and compacts, are coming with these features as standard equipment.

Some drivers of small, affordable, nimble vehicles find these to be intrusive and unnecessary in a small car. Others view them as a great safety feature that should be included standard, even on the least expensive vehicles.

I can see two sides to the story.

First there's the argument that small, low-horsepower vehicles do not need traction control. Many of these vehicles can barely spin the tires on dry pavement to begin with. And from an enthusiast standpoint, stability/skid control can be invasive during autocross, track days, or even "spirited driving." And anti-lock brakes are still not everyone's favorite. This group of people wishes that vehicles could be un-equipped with such features, or they should options. They don't want to pay extra for these features, even if they are integrated into the vehicle's cost. It can have a negative effect on the driving experience and they do not want it on their car. If people would learn to drive better, we wouldn't need these things to begin with.

Then there's the other side of the story ...

This is the set of the population that looks at these driving aides as good safety features; something that could help prevent an accident, or at least a spin out. Whether it's simply commuting to work, or autocrossing, the car's computer has faster reaction times than a person's ability to compensate for an emergency situation. Not matter how small, lightweight, or nimble the car, much of the driving population isn't well versed in handing an automobile at its limit. Plus, so much of the driving public is distracted by driving in inclimate weather while talking on their cell phone, smoking a cigarette, and attending to their 2.5 children in the back seat of their land yacht, that any devices that can help a driver not have to think about preventing a possibly collision (or spin out) is welcomed.

So what do you think? Are you for or against having small or smaller cars come standard with traction control, stability control, and ABS, or would you rather it be optional for people that want it?

10 comments:

Jimmy said...

Wish I had those features. In bad weather situations, especially, they make for a much safer drive. For the people worried about cost, buy an older car. For the people worried about interference, you can disable every feature with a simple button-pushing sequence. So why complain?

Pawel said...

because too much technology makes people lazy and distracted. The basis of driving is to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. All these gadgets (yes these are gadgets that will NOT save your life) merely postpone the inevitable if you are a distracted/reckless/stupid/etc operator , notice how I avoid calling someone a driver these days. People in recent years became passengers who have very little to do but to hold on to the steering wheel and push pedals like well trained monkeys. In winter time most of the cars I see in ditches and of the beaten path are luxury sedans and SUV packed with VSC,ABS, ETC. These people rely so much on the electronics of the car that they forget simple physics rules, they think that just because they have VSC they can fly by other cars in a snowstorm at 90MPH and if something goes wrong the VSC will reset them on the track just like on the Xbox. The fundamental innovation to all cars should be proper driver training and common sense. I've driven cars of all makes and sizes,with and without all the electronics and I always felt safer in a car without. This is simply because I had more feedback from the car that permitted me to act accordingly, with electronics all that is lost and 100MPH feels the same as 50MPH, you become a simple operator of the vehicle and not its driver. As for ABS it is only good (actually excellent) in wet conditions , as soon there is snow and ice involved however ABS becomes a liability as it will always think the wheels are slipping thus increasing your stopping distance.

el said...

Because I don't want traction control and stability control I should have to purchase used vehicles from now on? Here's an idea: Those who can't live without traction and stability and talking on cellphones and other distracting actions should just take the bus. Or a train! Just leave the driving to people that are, you know, actually on the road to drive. We keep adding these invasive features to cars because our attention spans are too short to keep our eyes on the road, apparently. The majority of comments I've seen here are in favor of these safety devises. I normally wouldn't associate "invasive safety feature advocates" and "car enthusiasts" to be part of the same group.

It's highly speculated that cars of the future will be mostly automated. Driver input will be a thing of the past. I'm sure the safety nuts will love it. How boring. I'm here because I love burnouts, power slides, threshold braking, double clutching, and most of all going really fast through the twisty parts. That stuff may be dangerous, but it sure does make you feel alive.

adam said...

I think it should be an option. i understand the relevance but more for the sake of affordability. Some of these small cars that should cost nothing to put together and should cost nothing to buy have all these standard features mandated by government and raise the price... people should be able to choose if they want those things or if they want a cheap car... IMO

Jimmy said...

WTF does ABS, TCS, and VSC have to do with people not paying attention to driving? NOTHING! So drop it. And yes people who are too conservative to accept evolution in technology in cars should for ever be forced to buy used cars or deal with the advancements. Your choice. Did I want an airbag? NO, but I didn't bitch about cost going up when they made it mandatory. Go buy a Model T and enjoy "real driving".

Pawel said...

ok...lets think a bit , your average car operator will slam on the brakes and pray to GOD the ABS will be there to do the real braking for him/her because he/she knew they have ABS therefore they did not anticipate the situation requiring the ABS kick in. Its simple people are lazy and do not bother to think ahead. Why should i slow down if i have the computer doing it for me. All these options should be chosen by the person buying the car or to the very least easily disabled. People are too damn lazy to turn their flashers on when changing lanes imagine if the flashers were automatic, i mean GOD is it so hard and draining to extend your finger 2 inches and flick the knob? Governments should insist on providing proper education to drivers and better sensibility campaigns than forcing good/experienced drivers pay for a system that is useless to them

Pawel said...

and btw Im all for the evolution in technology but a logical and affordable. Instead of putting money into VSC put money in KERS or making really efficient engines

Jimmy said...

To each their own I guess. I wouldn't buy a car with KERS but more efficient engines means more power so I'm all for that. Fuel economy didn't have not the smallest influence when I decided to buy my car. Couldn't care less about that honestly and hate that people buy it just for that reason to tell you the truth. Anyways, that's way off topic.

D2M said...

Hohoho! Looks like fun! I'll join the fray!

Stupid drivers will be stupid no matter what safety standard (or lack there of) their cars possess. If they weren't trained properly and/or don't have the self control to begin with, they're going to abuse the roads laws, their cars and common sense regardless what safety standards they have.

Yes, people will abuse a good thing like stability control. That doesn't make it bad! It just proves (once again) that people are stupid, and will continue to be stupid whatever advances in technology are made.

Should it be mandatory? Well, that depends. Does it cut down on deaths and accidents? *If it does*, than I'm all for it. (Just like I am with seatbelts and airbags.) A person's life is more important to me than how much control I think I should have over my vehicle. That's just me though, dunno about the rest of you.

el said...

I just feel bad for the Canadians. By 2011 they won't have a choice. All their new cars must come with traction and stability control. I'm just pissing and moaning now because I dread the day that this happens in the States. And that day will most definitely come, just like it did for airbags. At least we still have Momo.