Why Drivers Are Sacrificing Potentially Life-Saving Tech.

While car makers continue to leverage technological advances to improve the safety features available, drivers are still turning off systems they don’t understand. Is it time manufacturers and dealerships got better at explaining how instead of why?

It wasn’t that many years ago that airbags and antilock brakes were considered “optional” equipment in cars, if they were available at all. Now they’re standard in every new vehicle sold and so called pre-crash safety mechanisms are already prevalent in many of today’s on-the-road vehicles.

Things like: tiny airbags that nudge the driver closer to the centre to prevent side impact; advanced forward collision warning system and automatic braking, so if you don’t hit the brakes quickly enough (or with enough force) the car will automatically apply the brakes to prevent a crash; lane departure warning that send vibrations through your seat cushion or steering wheel to remind you to get back in your lane; lane departure assist features that will steer the car back into line for you; and advanced rearview camera systems incorporating “rear cross traffic” sensors that will alert you if you are about to back out into moving traffic.

The list goes on and the innovations keep coming. Mercedes, for example, has recently unveiled a safety feature that releases a blast of ‘pink’ noise during a car crash, a broad spectrum of frequencies which seemingly masks the harshness of a discharged airbag (a crashing car outputs roughly 145 dB, enough to damage hearing for some, while an airbag — the very mechanism that prevents you from getting hurt — produces around 165 dB when deployed; a sound so loud, its estimated to cause some degree of permanent hearing loss to 17% of people exposed to it).

It’s a reminder that as technology hurtles forward, the dealers, and car makers have to keep up, while drivers need more and better information about what’s going on, and what their role is.

The fact remains, though, many drivers will just turn off systems they don’t understand, sacrificing potentially life-saving tech. How many cars brought in for servicing at dealerships still have their lane departure warnings turned on? And how many have their intuitive forward collision systems up and running?

The truth is, if people don’t like the systems, and if they don’t know why their car is making that beeping noise, they won’t use them.

Some of the blame falls on the disconnect between the car makers and the dealers, in terms of safety feature training. Some car makers don’t even employ the people who train their dealers and salespeople are often working off basic manufacturer-provided training materials, making it difficult for them to give thorough explanations of the safety features they are selling.

There are exceptions to the rule, though. Subaru, for example, does a great job teaching consumers about the capabilities of its EyeSight technology, combining well-informed salespeople with brochures and in-dealership tech displays, while BMW use a system similar to that of Apple — with “geniuses” available to present technology education to salespeople, who can then pass it along to customers.

As technology continues to increase, and consumers’ need for education and understanding at the point of sale becomes more critical, the case for dealer digital technology — apps and video for example — seems difficult to argue against. After all, what good is safety technology, if you don’t know how to use it?

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