BMW Club Canada’s Toronto-area Trillium chapter has banned cars with automated forward-collision braking systems and lane-departure and correction systems from its track events over concerns these technologies pose a danger to drivers at speed.
Automotive auto-braking systems aggressively apply the brakes if, by way of its forward sensors, a vehicle determines it’s closing in quickly on another vehicle or object ahead.
Using similar automation technologies, lane correction systems “bump” the steering back in the right direction to keep a vehicle centred in its lane.
But on the racetrack, these systems designed for road safety may actually pose a significant hazard.
While learning car control skills at or near (or sometimes slightly over) the limit of grip, an unsolicited jab on the brakes or twitch of the steering wheel is likely to send a car into a spin, or perhaps under-steering into a barrier.
Indeed, an exercise focused on improving driver safety and collision avoidance skills could, ironically, be foiled by a safety technology, resulting in a smashed-up sports car—or worse.
(Even on public roads, these technologies pose a hazard under certain circumstances, such as when changing lanes to pass a slow-moving vehicle. If the vehicle applies its brakes in the middle of a lane change, or if lane-keeping tech bumps the steering back towards the vehicle the driver is intending to pass, it could cause a collision.)
In an April 9 memo to its members, the Trillium chapter said both of the aforementioned systems are banned from all track activities for the 2017 driving season.
While it’s true in most vehicles these systems can be turned off, the club is faced with a legal conundrum. By ordering drivers to turn these technologies off, the club puts itself at legal risk, yet by allowing drivers to keep the systems engaged, drivers are put at risk.
The fact some cars may unexpectedly turn their systems back on while driving even further complicates matters, as simply turning the systems off will not suffice as a reliable solution.
Starting in 2022, it will be mandated that all cars sold in Canada are equipped with both forward collision avoidance and lane departure systems, meaning driving clubs will be faced with a unique new challenge to keep events both safe and fully booked.
We’re hoping a solution can be found by then, lest driving enthusiasts eventually be forced into classic cars as time wears on.