Research finds quiet cars can be dangerous

A study at Brunel University has found that modern design has rendered cars so quiet that their ‘lack of feel’ makes them potentially life threatening.

The research blames reduced engine and road noise, and a lack of steering feel for the increased “isolation” of the driver from their environment. Drivers of old cars were found to be more in tune with the way they were interacting with the road.

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As someone who has driven vehicles ranging from a World War Two Jeep through to a 2007-designed Audi I can certainly see what they mean.

Modern cars, while great at what they do, have a certain habit of alluring you to speeds far above what you expect to see on the speedometer when you look down. A lot of the drama taking place at the road surface is filtered out by modern cars.

Brunel’s Dr Walker explains: “Driving is a complex and dynamic activity. With the advent of new technologies, which remove vehicle feedback and change the driver’s role, we need to be careful we don’t make drivers the equivalent of passengers in their own cars, who are not necessarily in control, or aware of and anticipating changes on the road environment.”

It’s an interesting theory. Do engineers need to start building back in some ‘old car’ feel? Are cars so ‘good’ now that we are travelling far too fast when we misjudge the road?

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3 Comments

Filed under Green cars, Jeep

3 responses to “Research finds quiet cars can be dangerous

  1. Howdy absolutely enjoyed reading the blog. Thought i’d communicate my thanks!

  2. Paul Anderson

    I think a lot of this is down to driver attitude. Making cars needlessly harder to drive won’t improve things at all. It will simply render the act of controlling the vehicle as yet another distraction from what’s going on on the road.

    Inattentive drivers will still be inattentive drivers even if we delete steering assistance, electronic stability control and ABS braking.

    To say that modern cars isolate the driver from what’s going on is true. Surely this has always been a goal for manufacturers.

    However, I do think that some vehicles have, for years, provided too much assistance to steering which can mask a tendency to understeer, espceially in heavy and torquey FWD cars. Not a bad thing, really, provided it doesn’t compromise the driver’s level of control in a critical situation.

    So, should we build in artifical feedback?

    It’s strikes as rather strange that we have to fit cars with traction control systems to manage driveline torque and then offer even more torque with an even larger and more powerful engine. Thereby giving the TC even more work to do.

    No easy answer to this. But I think a radical shakeup of driving standards would be more beneficial to road safety than simply make retrograde progress (?? – regress is perhaps a better verb) by undoing what are truly some magnificent works of science and technology by the motor industry.

    Imagine, if you will, trying to pilot a 1972 Austin Maxi through London, onto the A501 Marylebone Road through to A40 / M40 up to Birmingham. And then contrast that to carrying out the same exercise in a current model car, even a modest one.

    I know where I’d feel safer.

  3. Wobbletastic

    I’m all for modern cars getting some driving feel back into them. Some of the modern cars I’ve driven such as Seats and Vauxhalls have had such appallingly light steering that it makes it impossible to feel what you are doing… you may as well be turning a dinner plate on a table for all the information on the road that you get back. Not only do you loose touch with what is happening but also it’s very difficult to tell how much you are moving the car through control inputs, making accidents caused by people not following the line of the road more likely.

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