Well, that didn’t take long.
The car companies have decided — on their own — to install automated braking in all the cars they make by the 2022 model year, just six years from now.
They have come to love Big Brother.
No, they have become Big Brother.
Anticipating a federal mandate, they have decided to pre-empt NHTSA — the federal bureaucracy that has somehow found authority in the Constitution to “keep us safe” (I’ve looked, could not find the clause) by making us pay for new, expensive technologies most of us neither need nor want.
Like automated braking.
It appeared a few years ago as a gewgaw in high-end cars — which nowadays justify their high prices mostly by touting electronic gewgaws such as this, because meaningful amenities such as power windows and locks, AC, cruise control and a great stereo are standard equipment in nearly every new car made, down to the humblest “economy” car.
Seemingly overnight, automated braking — which is typically marketed as “collision avoidance” technology — is almost everywhere, available optionally (which is ok) in probably 50 percent of current-year new cars.
But optional is never enough.
Everyone must have automated braking. Just as they must have six air bags, ABS, TCS, seatbelt buzzers, tire pressure monitors and back-up monitors.
NHTSA will make the official announcement this week.
The systems use radar or laser (which is always on, and makes radar detectors practically useless) to scan the area around the car for objects in the vehicle’s path. If the driver doesn’t step on the brakes when the computer thinks he ought to — which is typically a football field’s length away from the object — the computer steps in and applies the brakes for him.
Maybe this sounds innocuous — even like a good idea (to a Clover).
Allow me to disabuse you of that notion (assuming you are not a Clover).
First, you should know that this is how they’ll take you — the driver — out of the driver’s seat. It’s not just that the computer is going to continuously second-guess you (and pre-empt you) when it comes to “avoiding collisions.”
It will do that, of course — applying the brakes prematurely and unnecessarily, just like a near-sighted old lady. Trust me. I know. I am a car journalist. I test drive new cars every week. Cars equipped with these systems get upset if you get even remotely close to another car — and will do fun things like hit the brakes when you are trying to exploit a rapidly closing window in traffic.
You are caught behind two cars pacing each other, the guy in the left lane just barely moving faster than the car to his right. He creeps forward just enough to give you daylight enough to zip in between and get around the Clover.
The computer considers this “unsafe” and will apply the brakes just as you are trying to accelerate.
Just one of many possible scenarios. Basically, the systems are programmed to “drive defensively,” in DMV argot. That is, like the Ultimate Clover.
Any move your mother-in-law would not like, the computer will not like. And not permit.
Which brings me to the other thing.
A car that can automatically brake to “avoid collisions” (no matter how theoretical) can also brake automatically for other things.
Like speed limits.
Has this occurred to anyone?
Your car probably already knows what the speed limit is, too.
On any road, at any given moment.
It’s piped in via the GPS or OnStar or BlueLink or whatever “concierge” system your particular make/model car has. Perhaps you have noticed the way the helpful little speed limit icon on the LCD display turns from white to red when you “speed.”
The automated braking system will notice it, too.
It’s like one of those Temple Grandin cattle chutes designed to keep the cows calm as they take their final walk. They follow one another, oblivious to what’s ahead.
Of course, all of this is all about Our Safety — as is everything these days.
Actually, it’s all about idiot-proofing — and making a buck.
About 1,700 fatal rear-ender “accidents” happen each year, according to current NHTSA Overlord Mark Rosekind. So, because about 1,700 people weren’t paying attention or following too closely, hundreds of millions of people will be forced to accept (and pay for) the in-car automatic braking nanny.
Just as they have been forced to accept back-up cameras because a handful of idiots backed up over a child.
But ultimately, this is about controlling us.
We will take a backseat to the superior judgment of Our Betters — that is, those in government, like Rosekind. They will decide when it’s time to slow down. And we will no longer have the discretion to decline to do so.