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As I look back on 2016, I realize that it has been my busiest travel year by far. I know this because of the number of cars I have rented according to my phone’s Bluetooth pairings. My phone has been paired with more cars than Taylor Swift has been paired with bad guys. Whether it was a trip for business or pleasure, I was in and out of a lot of different cars this year. I am also in the process of buying a new car, so I have test driven many cars, too. Not to mention all the fun I had looking at cars while attending auto shows. While I have never driven anything too exotic, I did get to drive and see a variety of cars. I drove everything in 2016 from a Ram 3500 dually, to a Hyundai Tucson that was clinging for every last ounce of life it may have had. Along the way, there were a few things that really stood out about these various vehicles.
One of the greatest things I noticed was that the Nissan Altima is a fuel miser. It’s a midsize sedan yet it managed almost 40 mpg on the highway when I drove it to Cleveland, Ohio. However, because it had a CVT transmission, there was a constant whine. It was most noticeable at low speeds. The whine was at its worst when I drove around downtown Cleveland. The city of Cleveland hadn’t experienced that much whining since The Indians lost the World Series. I also drove a Jeep Cherokee. While it was not as efficient as the Altima, it was much more comfortable. Plus, it had heated seats and a heated steering wheel. However, at a toll booth, the emergency brake accidentally activated and I thought for sure the car had been hacked. Overall, my favorite car to drive was the Camry. I never thought I would say that, but it was very quick and fun.
The worst car driving experience for the thus year was when I took a Mazda 3 to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with my friend Shawn. I want to be very clear, the Mazda 3 is not a bad car. It just was not the car for us. We are both tall, large men and this compact car is not made for larger people. I hit my head every time I entered the vehicle, it was very underpowered, and during a very heavy rainstorm, I was certain we wouldn’t make it back home. While the overall experience with the tiny Mazda was not favorable, it did have one feature that no other car I drove this year had…Blind Spot Monitoring.
If you’ve never driven a car with Blind Spot Monitoring, it’s neat. A Bling Spot Monitoring system is self-explanatory. It’s a system that uses sensors to detect other cars or objects in your blind spots. For most vehicles, an icon in your side-view mirrors will illuminate when there is an object in your blind spot. In the Mazda, the system is a little more advanced because it chimes if the driver activates a turn signal while something is in the blind spot. I will admit, this feature took some getting used to for me. By the end of my trip I was really starting to like the feature, and possibly getting too used to using it.
Earlier, I mentioned that I was in a rainstorm so bad that I wasn’t positive that I’d make it back alive. Well, it was on the way home from Philadelphia, near the city of Baltimore, when the heavens opened up, and my little compact car didn’t want to play in the water. Trying to drive in the storm was nearly impossible. The rain was so strong that visibility was reduced to mere inches in front of the car. Looking back at the situation now, I can see that we should have simply pulled off the road. However, I was on an adrenaline high from meeting Television’s Stephen Amell at the Philadelphia Comic-Con and was not about to sit idly by as other motorists beat me to the West Virginia line.
One thing I did not realize in advance was that the sensors for the Blind Spot Monitoring system don’t work well in adverse weather. For instance, if the sensors are dirty, covered in snow, or, as in my situation, surrounded by torrential downpours, they won’t work as intended. I learned my lesson after I nearly sideswiped a Chevy Cobalt. It’s safe to say that most consumers are not aware of this issue. We tend to become too reliant on these driving aids. I think it’s safe to assume that few people under 25 have ever driven a car without ABS or traction control. While these aides to make driving easier and safer, they take control away from the driver. It’s possible that a driver may panic in a situation when a driving aid fails because they are not accustomed to driving without it. Most manufacturers will list these limitations in the owner’s manual; but, let’s be honest…a lot of people don’t read those. This, however, may not be the biggest issue with driving aids.
If you’ve read my blogs in the past you’ll likely know that I have an obsession with cars. I stay up way past my bedtime most nights researching cars on YouTube and Autotrader. Because of this obsession, I have a bank of useless car knowledge. With that in mind, you can imagine my surprise when I learned how some cars are sold without all of the available safety features. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet though. All cars sold today now have airbags, seatbelts and the like. The issue is when cars are sold without electronic driver’s aids, but the owner believes that the car is equipped with the feature.
I am not trying to say that certain car companies are trying to do a bait and switch on consumers. There are few reasons why this disconnect can happen. One of the main reasons is that car companies have special names for each feature. Let’s use Subaru as an example. Subaru has one of the best Crash Avoidance Systems according to the IIHS. It’s called EyeSight. This feature is an automatic braking system for the car that works well. Subaru has something similar for the back of its cars which is similar but sold and packaged differently. It’s called the Reverse Autobrake. Here’s where things get tricky.
EyeSight is not standard on our example car, the Legacy, at any trim level. However, the Reverse Autobrake is standard on the most expensive trim levels, the 2.5i Limited, and the 3.6R Limited. To add EyeSight to these two trims, there is an additional cost of over $1,500. To complicate the matter, even if the car is not equipped with the EyeSight feature, it can still be marketed as auto/self-braking because of the rear system. This can easily create confusion for the customer. Consumers see that they have semi-autonomous features and they think that it’s for every aspect of the car. Some may say that it’s the responsibility of the consumer to make an educated decision about the car they are buying. I consider myself very educated when it comes to the automotive industry. However, I struggled to interpret Subaru’s website and available features.
As cars evolve, we need to make sure we have a better understanding of how their autonomous features work. Be sure to do your research, and ask lots of questions when you purchase your next car. However, if you’ve believed you were injured in an accident because of faulty driving aid, give us a call for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you aren’t available to talk now, fill out this form so that we may contact you at a better time.
Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law