In the past few days, several videos have emerged on social media platforms where some ‘influencers’ are seen to be driving vehicles equipped with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems or ADAS. In these videos, they can be seen letting the car drive itself while they canoodle or relax in the passenger seat.
This is not what ADAS was meant to do.
As I wrote in a previous Dashboard column, ADAS is only an ‘assistant’, not a substitute for a driver. But now it seems that there are far too many people who are encouraging dangerous driving.
At the outset, I want to make it clear that I believe social media has been extremely useful. It has democratised the feedback system and allowed amazing new talent to emerge. And this is not just restricted to motor vehicles, but in every aspect of content. YouTube has truly become the television of today with more choice than ever before. Twitter is the public square, the newspaper of today and Instagram is the fashion magazine. But the advent of social media has also meant that there are also those who do stunts that not only endanger themselves, but also the lives and limbs of others, especially children.
Also read: Honda, Hyundai, MG—ADAS is next big safety feature on Indian cars. The new City proves that
Dangerous and deadly
The recent arrest of a popular YouTuber, Prince Dixit, in Delhi for creating ruckus while shooting content on the roads on his birthday is welcome. In the video, Prince and his friends can be seen driving dangerously with several co-passengers standing out of the sunroofs. This is not uncommon in India. Even parents indulge in irresponsible acts, making their child stand out of the sunroof. Please do not lean against the sunroof in the air, it is dangerous. You are not secured in the car as two tragic cases a few years ago in Delhi proved — standing out of the sunroof led two children to lose their lives as their necks were slashed by Chinese manjha (kite string with glass shards).
It is when I see videos of children exposed through sunroofs that I feel, as a parent to a toddler who always sits in his car seat, the authorities need to act. Yes, I get upset at parents who don’t put their children in child restraint systems (CRS). But what about those who make their child sit on their lap while they drive? That is child endangerment, plain and simple. I hope people who pull off such stunts realise that if their vehicle has a driver airbag and it gets deployed even in slow-speed accidents, it could bring death to both the child and the driver. It is worth reminding people that the child safety ratings on cars only apply when the infant or toddler is secure in a CRS.
But the videos with people misusing ADAS, pretending that the car is driving itself, is truly shocking. ADAS is becoming more common, from Honda City facelift to the upcoming next-generation Hyundai Verna. It is imperative that carmakers ensure ADAS only works if there is some amount of pressure on the steering wheel.
The first time I experienced ADAS a few years ago was in Europe during drives of the BMW 3-series and Volvo XC40. After 15-20 seconds of little to no pressure on the steering wheel while the car was on the move, a loud alarm would go off. Maybe Mahindra, whose cars have featured in many of these ADAS-related videos, could consider taking the lead in India. Other carmakers too can make a start.
When social media users self-incriminate by posting videos of driving dangerously, which could also be speeding on crowded roads, action must be taken. This should, as I wrote earlier, must be done on an urgent basis by authorities when it comes to children. At the same time, the social media companies cannot escape some of the blame. In some cases, they have actively promoted users who pull off such stunts on the roads using their algorithms.
The Narendra Modi government has been quick on taking down misinformation channels on social media. They should now seriously consider cracking down on content promoting rash driving floating on social media.
@kushanmitra is an automotive journalist based in New Delhi. Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)