While vehicle manufacturer Tesla says the self-driving function on their cars does not make it fully autonomous, the ability to change lanes in traffic, park and even drive to you from inside a parking lot on its own, sounds like it is not far off.
n a more affordable price range, many new cars at least come with cameras and sensors to alert you if you are drifting out of your lane or approaching a car ahead with too much speed.
It is functions like these, and where car technology is headed, that has defensive driving instructor Ian Luff concerned.
“I’ve been doing this for 38 years and when you look at how we started off, with cars with no ABS [anti-lock braking system] and cross ply tyres, people were frightened of losing control of the car,” he said.
“Things have become sanitised and manufacturers have done a great job, but people still need to be aware of what the risks are of driving in today’s busy environment.”
Mr Luff said there was a common reluctance to revisit driver training in adults once they have passed the basic Ps test.
Add to that the feeling that cars are getting more capable of driving themselves, and he said it was a dangerous mix.
“It’s a mindset with people, they believe they don’t need a driving program because they’ve done the hill start, reverse park and three-point turn to get their licence,” Mr Luff said.
“If that’s 17 years of age and you keep going through to your 80s, when the government says it’s time we have a look at you, there’s a huge gap in the dates of starting to drive [and older age].
“Technology has changed so much from what people learnt on and herein lies the problem — it’s ignorance and a little bit of arrogance of people.”
The ‘$27b problem’ facing Australia each year
Mr Luff said motor vehicle crashes causing personal injury or car damage represented a significant yearly cost.
He pointed to the statistic that 30 per cent of car crashes are people running into the rear of another car.
“This proves that 30 per cent of people are tailgaters — most people have no idea how long it physically takes, in meterage, to stop a car under any conditions,” Mr Luff said.
“There’s a lot of ignorance in the marketplace and that’s why the road toll is so expensive — it’s a $27-billion problem per annum.”
The SUV craze and its impact on driver safety
Last year, seven out of the 10 top-selling cars in Australia were SUVs [sports utility vehicles], with the Toyota Hilux coming in at number one.
It represents Australia’s love affair with the higher driving vantage point, something Mr Luff said is good for driver safety.
“As we saw with the demise of the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore, everyone wants an SUV,” he said.
“Vision is better in an SUV and there is initially some push-back [with some drivers] because they sit in and they’re higher, but it’s adaptability, you put them in it for a few days and now it’s hard to get people out of SUVs into smaller types of cars.”