Assisted-Driving Boosted by Writers

Auto writers, copying automakers and their designers, have almost always given top priority to annual model-year changes

The industry, rarely indeed, has channeled its energies to the “newest model” on the “next year” even though the focus for the 2005 model, the 1999 model-or the 1904 model was NOT with the calendar update but with the discovery of new technologies  like disc brakes, starter motors and (gulp!) radios and headlights.

The current year is no exception to the century-old pattern of focusing on the next calendar model over the next driver-assist technologies, particularly in the safety area.

Two of the most widely-watched auto writers-Pulitzer Prize winner Dan Neil and Oakland Press’s Joseph Szczesny, are among writers who play up new technologies over calendar changes.

In the September 9 issue of the Oakland Press, Szczesny’s boldface headline was “A Salute to the Tech Side.”

Driver-assist features distinguish Ford Fusion

Szczesny’s story focused NOT on how soon assist features would appear on next-year models, but on the fact that Ford finally was coming to market with a Lane Keeping System plus a Blind Spot Information device with cross-traffic “adaptive cruise control.”

In reporting on safety advances, Szczesny wrote a paragraph noting that a driver survey found that nearly 60 percent blame blind spots for accidents or near-crashes.

Szczesny and Neil devoted their weekly columns in early September to “all-new” models from Chrysler and Chevrolet-the Dodge Dart and the Chevrolet Spark, respectively

The stylish-looking Dart and Spark will highlight recovery efforts by both automakers and commanded big spreads in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

 But neither story mentioned safety advancement as a feature of either the Dart or the Spark.

 Sadly, as has been evident over the history of the automobile, ‘driver assist’ technologies in the safety area (like seatbelts and rear-view cameras) have been too late in arriving on new models!