Predictive collision avoidance technologies are perhaps the most promising car safety innovations we’ve seen in decades. Safety features like lane-departure warnings and automatic braking systems have the potential to dramatically reduce accident rates, particularly once they become standard on new vehicles. In the context of a racetrack, however, these automated safety features can have some unintended consequences.
When you’re racing around a track, for example, the last thing you want is for your car to unexpectedly hit the brakes as you approach the car you’re pursuing. On a crowded racetrack, automatic braking could actually cause dangerous multi-car accidents, particularly if only some of the vehicles on the track are equipped with these safety features. That’s why some racetracks are prohibiting cars with automated safety features from participating in amateur racing events like track days.
In upstate New York, the Genesee Valley chapter of the BMW Car Club of America recently banned many newer BMWs equipped with collision avoidance systems. These cars are prohibited from racing in track day events even if their collision avoidance features can be manually disabled by drivers. The Genesee Valley chapter had this to say about the decision in their announcement:
“[Safety-related driver aids] will undoubtedly be of great benefit to traffic safety, especially given the rise in accident rates attributed to smartphone use. However, some of these new driver aids may adversely impact the use of such vehicles on a racetrack. In particular, cars with ‘automatic emergency braking’ and/or ‘lane keeping assistance’ systems may behave in unpredictable and undesirable ways on a racetrack.”
Automated safety features are already making the road a much safer place to drive, but they could also pose an unexpected threat to amateur motorsports. Hopefully, as these systems become “smarter” and more sophisticated, they can be safely integrated into racetrack environments as well.
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