I recently rode with my daughter in her new Tesla. It alerted her of an approaching bicyclist and warned her when she got too close to the road’s edge. She showed me how to invoke a feature that automatically follows the road’s curves and will apply the brakes if something obstructs the path. I noticed her eyes focused on the control console, about as much as on the road.
For backing up, I liked the feature of watching the screen. Without having to turn around or rely on a side mirror, my daughter had a full view of anything in her way. The map feature told her the route and distance to the destination. It even said how long, given current traffic conditions, until we would arrive.
She told me of all the other exotic features the car had, like built-in cameras that record in all directions, but I can’t remember them all. I was left with this question: Did all this technology help make her a better driver? Her answer was, yes, it did. She claimed she has learned how to brake correctly—apply slowly but with increasing pressure. Also, she discovered the middle of the road. Normally, she’d hug the center line in her previous driving experience. Observing her drive the car felt like watching a pilot fly a plane once airborne. I’m still not convinced that good old-fashioned steering, braking, and accelerating with my smartphone turned off and in my purse with eyes on the road isn’t the better way to go.