Test Drivers

It has been a very, very busy week, but one of the really cool things we got to do this week was visit one of our interesting companies here in Auburn Hills.  Continental contacted us because they wanted us to consider allowing them to install some new technology on a couple of our patrol vehicles so that they could test it and gather data.  We are proud to be an automotive town–it’s all about cars here.  So we were pleased to that they wanted to talk with us.

Lieutenant Cas Miarka and I visited Continental HQ on Thursday afternoon and met with their engineers.  One of them, Jeremy, has a brother who is a police officer and he had suggested that since police drive their cars in ways that are quite different from other kinds of drivers that perhaps a test with the local police could have value for the technology they are developing.  They explained the proposal to us and along the way gave us a very interesting primer in their company.  If you know anything about Continental you are probably thinking about tires which  was their primary business. What you might not know is that they are also very big in automotive safety systems.  It was fascinating to hear about their current projects and their vision of the automotive future worldwide. 

Then the best part:  THEY LET US DRIVE THEIR TEST CARS!

They gave us the opportunity to test their new technology which includes a system that sees a stopped object in front of the car and aids the driver by stopping the car on its own in time to avoid a collision.  They are asking us to test their low-speed version (less than 20 MPH) on our patrol cars.  Another aspect is the steer assist to avoid an object when there is time.  As professional drivers, our training has taught us that stopping is not always the best option when confronted with an object in front of the vehicle–if possible, it might be best to steer around the object.  That can be problematic if the driver is inexperienced since it requires good coordination to steer around and then quickly adjust back into the proper lane.  I have seen many crashes where drivers attempted that maneuver and were unable to complete it with tragic outcomes.  It isn’t bleeding edge new, it is available now in at least one vehicle sold in the US but they continue to improve it which is where we came in.   

I can tell you that it is difficult to speed up to 25-30 MPH and drive towards an object –even when you know that the object is an inflatable car, and not react as you approach by taking avoidance measures or applying the brakes. 

Lt. Miarka and I each had a turn in the test vehicles and were surprised at how well it worked.  I can see how it can save people from those minor fender benders that are so problematic in heavy traffic in the low-speed version and I look forward to the day when it can help drivers in higher speed situations and avoid serious crashes where people are hurt or killed.

It is fascinating to consider how automotive technology is moving toward cars that virtually drive themselves.  And when working in concert with smart roadways (which are on their way) we can look forward to safer roads.

We look forward to helping out and we’d like to thank the great people at Continental for the fun afternoon driving their cars and more importantly, their work to make the world a better, safer place!