The advantages of owning a modern car are astronomical when it comes to added safety features. Cameras tell you exactly why is behind you, internet connections let you watch and listen to whatever you want, and seat memory sets your recliner level where it should be. Everything you could ask for is at your fingertips, right?
Not so fast. While the conveniences of owning a modern car are undeniable, that doesn’t mean you won’t run into problems down the road. Before singing the praises of your collision avoidance system, think about some of the practical disadvantages when operating one of these cars.
What Is a Collision Avoidance System?
Simply put, a collision avoidance system is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a feature included in current automobiles that prevents you from encountering hazards and accidents while operating your vehicle. From time to time, alerts will sound and display on different parts of your car, letting you know that you are approaching an object from different angles.
Your vehicle will tell you when you begin to veer too far across a lane on a highway, or when you need to apply your brakes for an upcoming stop. In some cases, you can also have pressure applied to brake and gas pedals without even touching them. Your car can separate pedestrians from other moving objects on different parts of the road and street.
This might sound advantageous during an everyday commute. Unfortunately, like any new piece of technology, this system comes with its own set of problems.
What Are Some Disadvantages of a Collision Avoidance System?
If you aren’t always keen on having your car tell you exactly what to do, you might not get along well with a collision avoidance system. Here are some of the issues you could encounter when operating a car containing one of these built-in features.
Inconsistent Radar Detection Alerts
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When you use a car that alerts you with warnings about blind spots and cross-paths, you’re working with a radar inside the car. There are small receivers mounted on the sides of your car, no larger than a smartphone.
In perfect weather, even with cloud coverage, these will operate fine. The issue comes when bad weather enters the picture. Rain is a part of everyday life, and eventually, you’ll be driving during some kind of heavy precipitation. If your radar sensors end up getting wet, this can adversely affect the system’s performance.
You could wind up with a collision detector that sets off every few seconds, even when you’re not approaching anything. If the detector is properly installed, this shouldn’t happen, but it’s something you should consider when purchasing a new vehicle. Go over the car with every inch of detail you think is necessary. You don’t want to drive off the lot and, minutes later, receive a warning about an instrument failure.
Distractions from the Road
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Here’s a fair bit of irony for you. The very system that is put in place to help you pay attention to the road can also cause you to lose focus on the same road. Although the collision detectors are meant to assist in your drive could make you distracted and end up creating an extra hazard on your commute.
If you’re the type to easily get distracted during a drive, you might want to avoid any kind of vehicle that contains these systems. Manufacturers usually don’t allow you to disable any of the standard features that come with collision detection. Nothing takes you out of the experience of driving more than a loud beep or warning about something that isn’t even close to approaching your car.
The only way to take these offline is to wait for a problem. In most cases, any failure on the collision system will tank the entire system with it and cause the system to disable itself. Obviously, you will want to fix this in time, but it’s the only way to relive the headache of a collision avoidance system that just won’t stop nagging.
Cameras Obscured from Weather
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While the weather is already a factor in collision avoidance, the other issue you’ll find with rain and snow is a purely visual factor. If you have gotten used to using cameras to see behind you as you back out, you’re probably happy with the reduced blind spots. This works out very well during a cloudless summer drive, but you’ll have problems on your hands when leaving a parking lot during a snowstorm.
Maybe you haven’t been very diligent with clearing the snow from your car after a recent storm. It’s understandable, but it will never be more obvious until you get in the car and try to reverse out of the driveway. You look at your dashboard, and instead of the street, all you see is white. This is the result of a snow pileup in front of your camera lens.
You may already have cleared what you thought was enough snow, but one patch is all it takes to destroy your line of sight. One of the bigger problems with cameras that come with collision systems is their lack of protection. Even when given a shield, a patch of ice might prevent this from coming up if it’s frozen in place. Keep a scraper handy if you know that winter is coming and remember to make this a part of your commute during the colder months.
The Sun Is Not on Your Side
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Okay, you live in a part of the country where it’s dry, it never snows, and you need sunglasses every day to get to work. The weather doesn’t work against you, and you’re perfectly fine with using a collision avoidance system. What could possibly go wrong? That giant ball of gas in the sky is suddenly your worst enemy. Thanks to the glare given off by sunlight, you might run the risk of disabling your entire detection system.
Two-camera setups like the Subaru Eyesight use two cameras in the windshield to simulate a pair of eyes, helping with depth perception and greater accuracy with traffic warnings. That’s great, but what happens when two eyes are not shielded for the sun to try to see directly ahead? The same thing that happens to your eyes can happen to your cameras.
The sun’s rays can temporarily blind these cameras, rendering your entire collision system incapable of doing its one job. When this happens, the entire system shuts down, leaving you wondering why it’s even there in the first place.
Doing All the Work Yourself
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You would think that a system designed to help you avoid collisions would help you, well, avoid collisions. The problem is that all the electronics in the world still can’t replace the human brain when it comes to perception. Without a completely uninterrupted line of sight between you and your destination, the human mind is capable of drawing the distance and figuring out what could come in between.
This has happened with Google cars and causes the entire vehicle to pull over and shut off when it can’t see anything. You’ll find out that collision systems will perform horribly during bouts of fog and mist, reminding you of the need for your own eyes when you venture outside.
The cameras on your car won’t fare any better, unable to penetrate any thick fog in front of you. It’s great having such a complex navigation assistant, but it’s also obvious that it just can’t replace your own eyes. Having a passenger in the seat next to you is an even greater asset when relying on someone else to spot any upcoming hazards. Until the technology improves, you’ll just have to remember that nothing will replace your own hands as the best operator of a car.
Why Bother Purchasing a Car with a Collision Avoidance System?
Although the technology is sporadic in its performance, it still helps in several situations. If you are feeling tired, the constant reminders will help you remember that you are operating a heavy machine. The use of a collision avoidance assistant on the road might help you even more than a giant cup of coffee.
If you don’t like the thought of constantly looking over your shoulder at blind spots, this kind of system was made for you. Even if the regular reminders get annoying, driving your car will be more comfortable with a digital assistant.
Hitting the Road with a Collision Avoidance System
They aren’t perfect, just like any other new piece of automobile technology, but a collision avoidance system is here to stay in each new car on the market. Just like tire gauge monitors and dashboard cameras before them, you’ll have to learn to accept this new feature rather than fight it. As long as you can tolerate the annoyances that come from weather, excessive traffic, and obstacles on the road, you’ll be able to put up with your new AI partner on the road.