Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New tech: Keep learning the skills

  • Print

While it may have made an unwieldy headline, product-liability lawyers and tow-truck drivers are likely to be excellent career choices for the reasonable future. Allow me to explain.

Based on what we see in advanced-driving and racing schools, actual driver skill, on average, has been on a steady decline. This mirrors the advent of increasingly complex electronic driver-assistance systems. Cars and trucks have also become much better, which actually has a bit of a downside. Less-sophisticated vehicles, with lower levels of sound deadening, do a better job of signalling things like changes in road surface and traction, to which a skilled driver can respond.

Our road-safety experts have little interest in skills, but love trick electronics and legislation. Unfortunately, this means drivers are not being educated about what these potentially helpful driver aids can do. This is why every responsible advanced-driving school ends up having to teach people about the uses and limitations of anti-lock brakes, and this is relatively simple technology that has been around for a couple of decades.

The other side of learning how a system like stability control or traction management works is that it's useful for drivers to have a clue what it means when the electronics fail. This is not helped by advertisers. I really like Acura's Super Handling All Wheel Drive system, but a current TV ad could lead drivers astray.

First, the fellow pictured in the segment is spending too much time looking away from the road. Second, he talks about powering through a corner. No skilled driver does this. You squeeze in power when the exit looks okay. You can power through a corner if you are far enough below the vehicle's traction limit, and it may even feel kind of sporty, but it's bad driving and it develops sloppy habits. If you're close to using up the available grip, powering through a corner just means you're going to crash at higher speed.

Self-parking cars are all the rage these days, and might be useful for someone with limited mobility. For the rest of us, though, every time we park we are learning something about the width and length of our vehicle, and that is no bad thing.

This brings us to liability issues, and tow-truck drivers. At some point, every one of these electronic driver-assistance items is likely to fail. Drivers who relied exclusively on the technology could be caught out rather badly, and people will be hurt. Who will be responsible -- the driver, the dealer, the manufacturer, or the legislators? That's where the lawyers come in.

Perhaps because there's so much technology in our lives these days, it's easy to forget that we're still very much in the infancy of the computer age. The proof of that can be found in the news almost every day. Supposedly secure networks are hacked, computers crash, security breaches occur at the highest levels. As automobiles age, failure of computer-controlled safety systems becomes more likely, and will not be cheap to fix.

There are some amazing new safety features out there. However, we need to know how and why they are working, as well as their limitations. For example, all the fancy electronics cannot create extra traction; they can just use what is available as efficiently as possible. It's still a good idea for all of us to develop and maintain actual driving skills.

Alan Sidorov is an experienced automobile racer, product tester and freelance writer. You can reach him at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 14, 2012 F9

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Key of Bart - Four Little Games

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A mother goose has chosen a rather busy spot to nest her eggs- in the parking lot of St Vital Centre on a boulevard. Countless cars buzz by and people have begun to bring it food.-Goose Challenge Day 06 - May 08, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A black swallowtail butterfly land on Lantana flowers Sunday morning at the Assiniboine Park English Gardens- standup photo – August 14, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google