Seeking Your Input: Thoughts on Driver-Assistance Technology

In the very near future, I’ll be writing a major article in Roundel magazine (the national publication of the BMW Car Club of America [CCA]) that covers the advanced driver-assistance systems of the new BMWs. These systems (called ADAS) include gee-whiz features like variable cruise control, automatic emergency braking, collision-avoidance, lane departure warning, lane keeping […]

Seeking Your Input: Thoughts on Driver-Assistance Technology

In the very near future, I’ll be writing a major article in Roundel magazine (the national publication of the BMW Car Club of America [CCA]) that covers the advanced driver-assistance systems of the new BMWs. These systems (called ADAS) include gee-whiz features like variable cruise control, automatic emergency braking, collision-avoidance, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, blind-spot detection, backup cameras, parking assistance, driver distraction monitoring, and even some forms of evasion assistance.

This tech is being delivered on many new vehicles from all sorts of automakers now, with the most advanced options predictably available on top-of-the-line models and fewer on lesser ones. These systems have the potential to reduce so many serious injuries and fatalities that some regulatory agencies in the US and Europe have already mandated things like backup cameras to be standard on all new cars, with automatic emergency braking systems to soon follow.

To prepare for writing this article, I’d like to get an idea of what you think about this ADAS tech, so I can address your concerns and thoughts. Do you own vehicles with these systems? Do you like them? Or not? Have you had bad or unexpected experiences with the tech? If so, what were the circumstances? Do you think they make life easier and reduce your driving stress, especially in very congested or extended stop-and-go situations? Have they ever saved you from dangerous situations? Do you take comfort in them being an omnipresent safety net of sorts? Or are you just confused or irritated by their complexity or how they work—or don’t?

I’ll be writing this article in the last half of May, so I’d love to get your comments by May 15 at the latest. Please feel free to comment on this blog post or email me directly at

And I thank you enormously in advance for your insight—your contributions will directly influence this groundbreaking article!

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Mi Ae Lipe

Mi Ae Lipe is a citizen advocate living near Seattle, Washington. She blogs on Driving in the Real World, Tweets daily driving news and tips at @DrivingReal, and writes a regular column on street driving for BMW CCA’s Roundel magazine. She frequently collaborates with government organizations, NGOs, and individuals. She and fellow citizen Mark Butcher are recipients of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 2017 Award for Public Service for their work in


  1. I have 40 years experience on the road, about 18 of that spent driving the heaviest, most dangerous cargo in the worst conditions one could encounter. During that time I logged well over 2 million miles without a single at fault accident. When you take away the skill involved in manuvering a piece of equipment what remains? If Capt. Sully had never trained on how to handle an aircraft when losing all systems how might that scenario have ended differently? If drivers never have to rely on their skills to operate a vehicle, what guarantees are there that the driver in an antonomous vehicle will have the necessary skill to avoid causing a fatality when onboard systems fail? When I was a volunteer Firefighter we had a motto. Train so hard and often that when you need it, you won’t have to think about it. Drivers skills will deteriorate and there is no practice for the school zone and system not responding.

  2. What timing…! I am driving a 2019 BMW 430i loaner while my ’15 228i is being serviced. The 228 is not equipped with any of these systems (on purpose) but, the 430i has almost all of them! I have experimented with lane keeping, park distance and, the backup camera. The last two are welcome additions. Lane keeping is more distraction than assistance! It vibrates the steering wheel whenever it encounters the closeness of the painted lines on the road. Including, the striped lines on the highway! So, unless my turn signal is on to change lanes, it is constantly vibrating with every move of the steering wheel (avoiding pot holes in my lane etc.). I shut it off within 10-15 miles of activating it…!
    My gut feeling is, they will do more to enable distracted driving than to prevent crashes (they are not “accidents”!).
    I see people relying on automatic braking etc, as they happily text away, read the paper, apply make up… etc.

    I am an in car coach for the Tire Rack Street Survival program and, do my best to practice what I teach!
    These systems are a distraction more than a help, if you’re driving “head up”, checking mirrors, aware of your situation, etc.
    I do appreciate the backup camera and park distance features due to the poor visibility out of these modern cars though!

    Hope this helps….
    Dave Boone

  3. For the most part my opinion of this technology is that cars are being built by people who do not drive for people who should not be driving, making them needlessly more expensive and complicated. Blind spot warning is probably the exception because many people do not know how to properly adjust or use their mirrors, and some cars’ mirror design does not allow for complete coverage, causing blind spots. I have often seen adaptive cruise control slow down the vehicle I am in when there is not another vehicle in front, but a passing vehicle in its’ own lane triggers the slowdown. Lane departure warnings are extremely annoying when all you are doing is trying to avoid a pothole or other obstruction. Too many vehicles have built-in distractions, such as defrost activation buried in a menu; not a good situation when you are on a highway in traffic, your windshield suddenly fogs up, and you have to look at a screen and navigate to the proper selection when you should be watching the road. Unfortunately the list goes on and on. Just because something can be computerized doesn’t necessarily mean it should be; obviously the designers don’t use the systems or drive the vehicles they are designing. Want to use some useful technology? How about a way to activate turn signals for people too lazy or stupid to use them. We have an “Auto” setting for headlights but I cannot even count the number of vehicles I see every day with no lights on when it is actually dark. We have laws against handheld phone usage and Bluetooth connectivity in our cars, but again, you cannot even count the number of people with phones in their hand while they are driving, looking at the phone instead of the road. This is a very difficult situation for law enforcement because many of them are also guilty of this also. The thing about all this technology is that it does not eliminate the need for common sense and driver attentiveness. Driver licenses cannot be handed out like candy on Halloween to anybody who wants one; skills have to be learned and proven first. Technology will not fix this, people have too. Imagine if we gave out medical degrees for surgery the same way we give out driver licenses? My observations come from experience. I work for an auto group as a swap driver and drive all kinds of new vehicles so I have a lot of first-hand experience with all of these systems. In all honesty I turn off any that I can when I drive.

  4. Wife and I have had a couple of cars with ADAS equipment, and can appreciate most, if not all of it. Of course it is important to realize that these are aids, not to be depended on. Paying attention is still very important. The adaptive cruise control requires that you pay attention to speed, because if the car in front slows down gradually, so do you and now people are passing you till you realize what is happening. Do not use it full time since if you turn it off or drive another vehicle that doesn’t have the feature you can find yourself speeding up to a slow moving car and wondering” why am I not slowing down?”. Happened to me once. Luckily my main driving aid (wife) alerted me. Actually when she is in car all the electronic technical stuff is unneeded!

  5. I have driven two different BMWs (both loaner X3s) with driver-assistance technology. I own a 2000 Z3 and a 2008 535xi wagon, neither of which has the DA technology. Which do I prefer? The “old” technology. Why? Because without the technology I am forced to monitor what I am doing, who is around me, what they are doing, scan for pedestrians/bicyclists/motorcyclists/other potential hazards, and otherwise pay attention to driving. With the technology, I found I was paying attention more to what the technology was or was not telling me than to the things I mentioned above. I was still driving with the attention as though I had no “nannies”, but had to keep one set of senses on the technology in case it did alert me to something my eyes/ears/nose/gut missed (they did not miss anything, by the way).

    Thanks for asking this question. I feel that the more we have to rely on technology the more we have to learn how to use the technology, and we lose sight of what the basics the technology is helping us with. For example, I learned how to spell not with electronic spell-check but by using my brain. If the electronics fail (ever have to handwrite something when your computer goes down?) we can be hopelessly helpless. If the driver-assistance technology fails and we have not learned to rely on our own senses to do what the technology is doing for us, we are in trouble.

  6. Hi, while I don’t have any experience with driving assist technologies, I do have concerns that some people will rely too heavily on them without understanding the limitations of what they can and can’t do. There was a recent article (in Car and Driver or Road and Track) that looked at the automatic braking features of a few cars, and what conditions they do and don’t prevent a crash. It varied greatly, but none of the cars tested could prevent a crash in all situations. The owners manuals did describe some of the limitations, but I have doubts about how many people will actually read the manuals. As a result, people may allow themselves to be more distracted behind the wheel thinking that the automatic braking feature will save them.
    And don’t even get me started about the people who never use their turn signals!
    PS -I love your articles in the Roundel magazine and wish more people could see them.

  7. Hi Mi Ae,

    Thanks for the invite to share on this subject.

    I’ve been teaching/coaching driving almost 14 years and feel strongly that at the core of this issue is risk.

    They only way a driver can even be calling themselves a safe driver is if they are are consistently keeping the risk factor low in their habits thus…
    My basic question is this:

    Will the technology minimize risk?

    I’ve used cruise control and back up camera’s and know that neither is full proof and that the greater the dependence on them does put a driver at risk. CC is high risk on wet pavement and BC is limited in that it can only “see” a certain area whereas our eyes can take in much more than any backup camera.

    As you know I am in the finishing stages on my book about risk and feel very strongly that, like the cell phone, much of the proposed technology will only create an even more dependent high risk driver than it will a low risk driver.

    If there were any tech that I would like to see is the kind of tech that increases the awareness of the driver such as an AI that integrates with GPS and tells a driver that they are speeding at a high risk level or even one that overrides the drivers ability to speed and warn them by causing a progressive slowing of the car. This is also creating more dependence on tech but is an example towards getting to low risk driving that keeps a driver safe.

    What would be great too is automatic turn signals placed in the steering wheel or are pressure sensitive to firm touch or just turns on if the steering wheel moves to certain degree of say 35 degrees. Tech that will decrease drivers being lazy and dependent and more aware and at low risk is what I would support.

    Awareness + Low Risk skills = Safe

    Will Thornton
    Founder of ZeroRisk NOW!

  8. No one will ever be able to replace the “human” element in vehicles. Distracted drivers are already a problem, nationwide. If the driver is not paying attention, he/she cannot stop in time when following too closely, and/or distracted by other things that are present.

  9. Mi Ae: I have 2 perspectives on this issue.
    Andrea & I have a 2016 Audi A3 hybrid nee` “e-Tron.
    It has blind spot warning and front/rear obstacle warning and forward crash warning, and lane departure warning; but no active brake or throttle intervention.
    We have a 2018 Sprinter 2500 which has the same trio of features, again without active intervention. I find the blind spot warning very useful. Am I ageing? I was convinced when renting a CX-5 2 years ago. I find the idea of smart cruise control interesting: I’ve read that 1/12 cars with this engaged in traffic makes for a measurable improvement in laminar flow. I look forward to driving a car with lane [steering] keeping and automatic throttle & brake management. The prospect of automatic lane changing – Tesla’s most complex autopilot – is intruiging.
    Second: as a HPDE instructor, we insist that students turn off all active intervention systems on track. We are aware of events where [the rules are different] and a passing car tucked in front of a passed car, only to have the passed car brake hard. In teaching HPDE skills, we try to teach data collection, decision analysis, and the skills to pick an optimal path and follow that path without incident. This involves both routine driving and adverse event avoidance.
    Can machines improve on the performance of a trained human?
    How will such algorithms perform across a spectrum of attentiveness and skill levels. Bruce Parker

  10. My BMW M240 doesn’t have any of the ADAS features except cruise control. I try to get as few options as possible on a car because I think most of them are distractions. I even turn off the display, except for the few times I need the guidance to find some location. I’ve been to the Performance Driving School in Greer SC 4 times, so I know how to set my rear view mirrors to limit blind spots, how to leave enough space from the car in front, how to look as far down the road as possible and check rear view mirrors frequently.

  11. I bought a 2018 Toyota 4runner TRD Pro a year ago February. Could have bought nearly anything I wanted, but specifically chose the 4runner because it has so little ADAS. The 4runner has ABS, Traction control, and a backup camera. The TRD Pro also has tech for off road, but we are talking about street driving and none of the off road tech works unless you are in 4wd low.
    I like ABS, it has saved my butt several times. But it also adds distance in snow and gravel, which I have experienced.
    The Traction assist has scared me when I dart out, say a left turn from an intersection and instead of going, it hesitates, leaving my rear exposed to oncoming traffic. But I even though I usually leave myself enough room to not get hit, momentarily, I cringe, hoping I have not miscalculated.
    Finally, I have a backup camera, which makes it very easy to backup, anywhere. I especially like being able to back into a parking spot, where I can easily center and stop in the best location for the circumstances, ie, the cars parked near me. Also it has good night vision capabilities, as the 4runner comes with dark tinted rear windows, this plus LED backup lights aid nighttime backing. On the less positive side, I have to remind myself daily to turn and look because the camera can’t see the sides.
    As you may be able to see, I am not a fan of ADAS. A dumming down of drivers in general. My mother in law just traded in a 2011 Rav 4 with only 30k miles on it, in perfect condition and bought a 2019 Rav 4 only because it has Safety Sense, all the bells and whistles Toyota has to offer. I have driven her new vehicle, which will drive itself down a lined road without any hands on the steering wheel, until a big red triangle shows up on the dash asking you to put your hands back on the wheel. It beeps at you if you come near a line, say mildly apexing a corner.You can keep it. I still love driving, and all the responsibilities, requirements and experience that go with it.
    I could rant on…

  12. ADAS, as most technology, is generally useful but tends to have limitations. Unfortunately over-reliance on these make us lose some basic skills. I love the blind spot detection as an example but I found myself just using those amber lights instead of the rear view mirrors. Now in some light/rain conditions the sensors do not work and some close shaves have lead to using the rear view mirrors as before. Same with backup cameras. In short, ADAS is great, it is just us humans who get lazy and over-reliant on them who make the tech not-so-great.

  13. It’s the author, Mi Ae, here. I just want to thank you SO much for all your responses and feedback already on ADAS. This will help me position my BMW article much more effectively. Gratitude! —Mi Ae

    • MI Ae lipe thanks for the information, however i cant comment as we driver old vehicles in our country uganda more than 10 years. And the article for latest vehicles.

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