The nanny state

Automatic braking is a step forward... and back

DAVID HASSALL

THE problem these days with automotive engineers, of the electrical variety at any rate, is that they seem to think theyíre so much smarter than the rest of us. And that they need to save us from ourselves.

They seemingly wonít be happy until cars are completely autonomous, removing the one variable Ė the mug driver Ė from their otherwise perfectly organised world.

And, as we all know, they are close to their automotive nirvana, though quite how that will actually work is another matter.

Now call me old-fashioned Ė you wouldnít be the first Ė but I quite like driving a car. I enjoy being in control of it, going as fast as I choose, as close to other cars and the scenery as I feel appropriate, choosing how much throttle, brake and steering is required to get from point to point in the smoothest, fastest and most efficient way possible within the constrictions of the real world with all its unpredictable variables, like those other mugs on the road.

But auto engineers donít seem to share my view. And I reckon they (and the legislators who seem determined to remove all variables from life) are simply dumbingdown motoring. Driving is no longer regarded as a skill you need to learn and hone, but an activity that requires us to switch off our brains and blindly follow the pack. No wonder standards have plummeted.

Iím not picking on Lexus alone here, but the RC200t seemingly thinks it should be in control of everything, and that the driver just gets in the way. The steering, brakes and throttle seem only vaguely concerned with what your hands and feet are doing.

Most disconcerting is the autonomous auto braking, which Lexus embraces under the term Pre-Crash Safety System Ė and thatís important to know to find it in the 620-page ownerís manual (plus another 500-page volume just for the sat-nav!). I needed to find out how to turn it off, but the PCS button clearly illustrated on page 292 is somewhat hard to find in reality, being hidden under the steering column near you ankles.

Why would I want to turn off such a valuable safety device? Because itís trying to cause an accident, thatís why. It simply doesnít trust me. I know I drive to tighter margins than the average punter, but when I get a perfect run to overtake the car in front going up a hill, indicate and pull out, the last thing I need is for my car to have a hissy fit, shout at me and brake heavily while Iím out on the wrong side of the road.

Thankfully the kind man at Lexus told me how to find that elusive PCS button so itís now turned off for good. But Iím sure they still think Iím a mug.

Response begins with a naughty word

The most annoying nanny in the Lexus on a regular basis concerns the throttle, which goes to sleep when you stop at the lights. Even with idlestop turned off, it has no respect for your reaction time; predict the light sequence, gun it as soon as they go green and thenÖ well, bugger-all for a second. As even little buzzboxes alongside surge ahead, you sit all that torque to kick in before suddenly whooshing away as if youíd daydreaming. Seriously, whatís the point of developing all that turbo for instant throttle response only for the electronics to kill it completely? waiting for uíd been rbo tech pletely?

LEXUS RC200T F-SPORT

Date acquired: April 2016 Price as tested: $76,500 This month: 947km @ 11.5L/100km Overall: 3836km @ 11.1L/100km DP T O

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