All Spun Up: Are Vehicles Becoming Idiot-Proof?

June 2020 Column Colin Peterson

This article originally appeared in the June 2020 issue.

It may be cliché to say this, but our world seems to be spinning faster year after year, especially when it comes to technology. That trend has been no stranger to our vehicles, especially in more recent years. Nowadays, we have vehicles – including diesel pickups – coming standard with a truckload of safety features and assistive technology that were typically options on the most upscale trim packages. Parking sensors, for example, have been around as an option for more than a decade, but they are now becoming more standard on some vehicle models. Then we have backup cameras, which have become standard since the government made them mandatory. Some backup cameras come with the green, yellow and red lines on the screen that curve and shift with the turn of the steering wheel to tell you exactly where you’re aiming. Other technologies we have access to now include – but aren’t limited to – rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, driver alert system, and trailer backup assist (as part of the backup camera). Whatever technologies our vehicles are coming with now, their purpose is to tell us exactly how to operate our vehicles to help ensure that nothing goes wrong.

Useful For Work

All of this technology is amazing and these advancements blow me away. I can picture these advancements being especially helpful for those who use their trucks for work, as I worked in landscape maintenance and had to hitch up to equipment and dump trailers countless times. Of course, because the company trucks I used were older, they didn’t have backup cameras. Over time, I got more of a feel for where the hitch was in relation to the trailer tongue, but from time to time, and especially when I first started backing up to trailers, I needed a spotter to help me when possible. Oftentimes though, I ended up being at my company’s yard all by myself. I had to get the truck in just the right spot so I could crank the trailer tongue down where it would catch the ball. The lighter lawn equipment trailers when empty were more flexible to work with; if I got out of the truck and realized I was a little bit off, I could lift the tongue with all my might and pull it on top of the ball. The heavier dump trailers weren’t so easy. I could hardly lift those with my own arms. Occurrences like those made me wish the trucks had cameras.

No Substitute For Safety

There’s nothing wrong with increased technology, and I totally support it for plenty of safety reasons. However, some of us can argue it’s spoiling us in a way, making us less inclined to put the effort into driving and even causing us to regress in our ability to maneuver our vehicles. Then, the next thing you know, someone can become so dependent on the technology that if it fails, the truck owner might crash. It’s interesting to think that teenagers are learning to hook up trailers with one of those backup cameras with trailer backup assist features instead of by their parents coaching them while throwing around hand signals as if trying to land a huge Boeing 747. This technology certainly saves time and energy.

Words Of Caution

If you’re shopping for a new truck, pay attention to those footnotes you see or hear in commercials that tell you the technology is absolutely no substitute for safe driving practices. Take them seriously! I also try to almost treat the vehicle as if the technology isn’t there. As I’m driving something with so much technology, I’m always thinking to myself, “I don’t deserve this!” From time to time, the safety technology can even get annoying as it beeps at me when I’m trying to merge from one lane to another. I’m like, “I KNOW, OKAY?!” Also keep in mind that as vehicles become more technologically advanced with time, they become more difficult and more expensive to repair. Please continue to have fun, but use the technology wisely and stay safe out there.

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