Since Tesla and Google came up with their autonomous cars, it has become a rage in the automotive sector. People are just amused by the idea of a car that can perform many of its basic functions by itself. Also known as self-driving cars, these vehicles generally analyze sensory data in order to function. It can detect its surroundings with the help of a GPS, radar or computer vision. These types of cars offer many features like keeping itself in the right lane, self-parking and most importantly, applying the brakes whenever required. The auto-braking system not only lowers the impact of a crash but also prevents any rear-ends collisions. According to a data provided by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it has been analyzed that the auto braking system can reduce the severity of crashes by 30% and can eradicate them by 40%.
This may sound very convenient, but all that glitters is not gold. The auto-braking system also brings with itself many loopholes and is far from perfect. Recently, many cases of Tesla’s Autopilot have come into highlight where some defects were recorded in the autonomous system. And now, a new issue has arisen in the auto technology of many automakers. There is a daily car routine, which has managed to confuse all the auto-braking systems. Yes, we are talking about car washes. The auto-brakes work with the help of sensors which prevent a collision by applying brakes automatically, as soon as they detect any front obstacle. Now the problem arises because these sensors are not able to differentiate between a wall and the curtains which are used during car washes. For this system both are considered to be a hazardous obstruction which must be avoided in order to prevent a collision. As a result, the cars become stuck in the mid wash as they misinterpret the curtains as some kind of obstacle. Although, this may not hamper those car washing systems which use a conveyer belt to move the car. It only creates a problem in the conventional ways where the car is pushed physically through the tunnel. Most of the automakers provide an easy guide in the user manual on how to control their cars during washes. But these solutions are buried deep in the numerous pages of a booklet, and the users do not pay any heed to them. As a result, this has become a big issue with the autonomous car drivers. So it is always advised to go through the user manual once, in order to avoid being stuck in the tunnel of car wash. In some cars there is a simple one-touch process to deactivate the auto-braking system.
What further complicates the situation is the fact that there is no standardization in auto-braking systems. They are not created in a similar way and may also work in different manner. For example, some automakers have designed it in such a way that the vehicle would automatically disable the auto-braking system if it is moving slower than 10 mph. This case would not be a problem as car washes are done at slow speeds. But on the other hand, some models require the driver to disable the system manually. This may become a complicated situation during car wash. Moreover, the system of car wash is also not similar in many countries. While in some places the driver can sit inside the car when it is going through the tunnel, some may require turning its ignition off with the driver being outside the car.
So what we can do is just wait for better technologies as it is being speculated that by 2020, many other features like auto hold braking would also be introduced. Till then, try to get a hang of this loophole. Or else, you can also expect a special ‘car wash’ button being standard in all the upcoming models.