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Get Familiar with New Car Technology


How old is the car that your teen driver will be using for lessons and daily driving? If your car is less than five years old, or you’ll be buying a new or pretty current model for your teen to drive, you need to make sure that you’re both familiar with all the technology.

Most of us have experienced the novelty of new technology in a car. Anyone who drives the same car for several years before getting into a newer model will be confronted with unfamiliar features. Cars are under a constant state of development, and sometimes the advances are remarkable. Before you hand a set of keys to a brand new car to your freshly licensed teen, get yourself up to date on all the current car tech.


Energy Conservation Features

Two energy conservation features that are common in new cars are the auto stop/start and the auto brake hold. These are designed to conserve gas and the driver’s energy when the car is not moving.


The auto stop and start feature turns off the car’s engine when the car comes to a complete stop. When the driver applies pressure to the accelerator, the car restarts immediately and starts to move as though it had been running the whole time. While I’m sure this does save a little bit of gas while the engine would normally be at idle, I am concerned about the sound and feel of the engine turning over being something that surprises drivers. That quick startle could cause a driver to do something unsafe.


Those of us who have been driving for many years simply don’t expect to hear or sense the sound of an engine starting when we are at a red light or stop sign. The first time this happens, it’s jarring! That being said, we get used to things very quickly. If you appreciate the gas saving aspect of this feature, you will adapt to the sensation within a few weeks. Teen drivers who have only ever driven a car with this feature will acclimate to it quickly as well. If you would rather stick to the traditional experience of a running engine, you can turn this auto start/stop feature off. In most cars, you’ll have to turn it off on your car’s touchscreen control panel every time you drive.


The brake hold feature is meant to conserve your energy by allowing you to relax your foot when the car is stopped for a long time. The brake hold will keep the car still, and prevent it from rolling backwards on an incline, if you remove your foot from the pedal. The rear brake lights will also stay illuminated so that the driver behind you can see that your car is braked. When you press the gas, the car will release the auto hold and go back into motion. This feature works in tandem with the auto stop/start, so when the driver presses the gas, there will probably be the added sound of the engine turning over.


My main concern about the brake hold feature is that it allows the driver to pay less attention to the task of driving. If you can relax your foot, will you also relax your mind and lose track of your surroundings? If you try this feature, and you find that re-engaging your brain to get back to driving is unsettling, then consider turning it off. I recommend turning it off for your teen driver as well so that it is not a distraction temptation for them.


Safety Alert Features

New cars are fully equipped with sensors and cameras all over the place to enhance safety. These sensors and cameras are keeping track of activity around the car, as well as the car’s own movement, to assist the driver.


This technology includes things like:

  • Blind-spot viewer

  • Lane change warning

  • Adaptive cruise control

  • Front or rear collision warning

  • Emergency braking

  • Backup camera


This range of technology goes a long way in solving a lot of the human limitations we have always had as drivers. The car is able to recognize and react to safety hazards with mathematical precision, which may sometimes be faster than our cognitive abilities.


I certainly appreciate anything that enhances safe driving skills! But these technological advances are not without their tradeoffs. For one thing, they are noisy! Most of these features involve audio alerts such as beeping or a machine-generated voice warning. Just like the auto stop/start feature, these sounds can surprise a driver and cause an inadvertent reaction. Once you get used to these alerts, however, will you simply tune them out and forget that they are designed to help you?


Some of these safety features also take control of the car. This is uncomfortable for both new and experienced drivers. Driving is a very tactile and responsive experience. When a car acts on its own, the driver will have some dissonance about not having caused the behavior. It can make you feel out of control, and there are times when that feeling could escalate into anxiety or even panic. As I mentioned before, though, we adapt quickly to new experiences. After an adjustment period, you may settle into a new groove with these tech enhancements and appreciate their benefits.


Know Your Car and How to Use It

Your new car’s fancy technology can only be beneficial if you know how to properly use it and manage it. When you buy that brand new or barely used car for yourself or for your teen driver, take the extra time to become familiar with the car. It is part of a salesperson’s job to train buyers on how to use, navigate, and disable all the technology features of their new car. Take advantage of their knowledge to learn as much as possible about your new car before you drive it off the lot. Of course, YouTube is always a great backup resource to learn more about your car’s features and to refresh anything you’ve forgotten since you bought it.


Safer cars are a net positive for all of us, but the safest car in the world is still dependent on its driver. If you are coaching your child as a teen driver, make sure you’re familiar with all of your car’s safety features before you take them out on the road. For the best preparation, check out my Parent’s Survival Guide for New Teen Drivers. Or, consider Safe Driving Lessons for your teen driver. Our coaches are ready to help your teen learn safe driving skills that will equip them to be competent, experienced drivers.   


 


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