4WD Knobs

G’Day, Chris here again.

I have to ask the question,
“Are you the passenger or the driver when you go 4WDing off road?”

No, I don’t mean what side of the vehicle you’re sitting on, I mean do you actually drive the vehicle where you want to get to or through, or do you rely on a computer?

I have to admit being a bit of an old schooler despite my very youthful looks. (Stop laughing now).

When I jump into the seat of a vehicle, be it a road going sedan, hatch or whatever, or into my choice of 4WD, I like to think I am in control. Certainly the brigade in blue and insurance company would like to believe I’m in control on road, the repercussions can otherwise be severe.

So why is it then as soon as we hit the dirt, sand, or a steep decline, we are being told that pressing a button on the dash will look after it from here?

Really, is 4WDing that simple now?



Personally I’m still not convinced. 
On the odd occasion I still get to dust off my Driver Training certificate and present my argument to a sponge, that is, a person who is prepared to learn how to drive a 4WD with both arms, legs and brain in gear, but they are getting few and far in-between sessions.


I think mostly because the new car salesperson has pretty much convinced them it is un-necessary. 
Is it not true or am I placing too much weight on their sales pitch? 
If it weren’t true, why is this technology such a prominent feature in sales material. 
Wouldn’t the chromed door handles be more interesting?

Don’t get me wrong, these new 4WD’s are mostly very capable, technology is improving rapidly, and manufacturer’s understanding of customer wants and needs is undeniably well researched.

But they can’t substitute knowledge and experience when the fuse blows.4wd-2
Imagine, just as the vehicle drops over that steep edge with ‘DAC’ engaged and it fails, has the driver the understanding on how to regain control and continue without needing to stop and re-read the owner’s manual.

I know I’ve mentioned in previous blogs about training, and it probably won’t be the last time, but you just can’t substitute education and experience with a computer. 
Did the person in a white lab-coat entering the delicate intricacies of the ECU data mapping go through 1001 off road scenarios personally before writing that program to get you off that hill-side. Maybe. Doubt it.

So why put your faith in anything but real world experience.

Here are just some of the great features in a new model Landcruiser:

Reversing Camera, Park Assist, Sonar Parking, Driver Fatigue Monitor, Blind Spot Monitor, Lane Departure Alert, Reverse Cross Traffic Alert, Crawl Control, Multi-Terrain Monitor……

Other makes and models have similar features. Of course, as an example, Toyota in their wisdom added the following disclaimer: Crawl Control is a driver assist technology and should not be used as a substitute for safe driving practices. The area into which the vehicle is to be driven must be visually monitored by the driver. In other words, we accept no responsibility if it all goes pear-shaped.

But can they….?

I think it’s a valid question to ask of our manufacturers “If this feature fails in operation under reasonable circumstances for what the vehicle use is intended or expected, will the warranty also cover repairs resulting from a failure?” The new consumer protection laws are getting tougher on compensation for ‘collateral damage’ and issue statements such as “Compensation includes the cost to you caused by a problem with products or services. This is usually financial costs, but can include other costs such as lost time or productivity”


But again, does this just put further reliance on pressing a button to do the job, or should we be taking responsibility for our own failure to learn and understand the situation first. Regardless of how clever the computer simulations and data mapping is, it can never be predictive and only ever reactionary. A computer cannot foresee every rock, drop-off, mud slide, or erosion.


So back to my point, are you a passenger or a driver when going off road?

Do you still use the buttons and controls for convenience but have taken the time to learn and understand your vehicle in various scenarios without reaching for the flashy knob on the dash?

Your call, but if anyone ever calls me a knob jockey its only the wife is cursing me for changing the radio volume again.

Stay safe and see you Outback


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