Driving, it’s something most of us do every day, either for fun or out of necessity. But with increasing urbanization and public transport not being very developed in most parts of the world, driving is a fairly necessary part of our daily lives.

In the case of cars, there has always been a war between increased automation versus having unadulterated mechanicals without any electronic interference. The age-old debate of automatics versus manuals is as strong as ever.

There exists a correlation between the prices of fuel and sales of automatic cars, places that have had high fuel prices would tend to steer away from automatics due to their historically abysmal fuel efficiency. Case in point, South Asia and Europe have preferred manuals due to their cheaper upfront cost, fuel efficiency, and easy-to-maintain nature. However, places like the West and Middle East prefer automatics as they have an abundance of cheap fuel and they like the no-nonsense attitude of them being simple and easy-to-use commute workhorses.

We can now observe a change in trends with advancements in technology, automatic cars return similar mileage figures to manuals, and automatic transmissions tend to break down much less often when compared to about a decade or two ago. Increasing city traffic leading to stop-and-go situations makes driving manual cars a pain. Hence, even in a price-conscious market like India, the trend is moving towards automatic cars for a hassle-free driving experience in city traffic.

Advanced driver-assistance system, more commonly known as ADAS, is a combination of driving aids that assist a driver and make overall driving safer. There are different kinds of ADAS and they encompass features like anti-lock braking system (ABS), traction control (TCS), electronic stability control (ESC), and cruise control that are common in today’s cars.

Active ADAS systems are much more autonomous and use a wide range of sensors, including surround-view cameras, RADAR, and LiDAR. These include features like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, driver drowsiness alert, collision avoidance system, emergency braking, and blind spot detection.

One of the best features is the high beam assist. This godsend feature lowers the high beam to not blind the oncoming traffic. I hope this will prevent us Indians from using high beams all the time and start being considerate of others. But who knows? Some of us are obnoxious fools determined to have high-mounted always-on auxiliary lights on our cars.

ADAS is categorized into levels ranging from 0 to 5, with Level 0 having no automated driving, and Level 5 having fully autonomous driving. Cars in today’s market offer Levels 0, 1, 2, and 3 ADAS. All ADAS-equipped cars with Level 1 and above are required to have an automatic transmission to shift gears when needed to achieve adaptive cruise control and variable speeds.

Driving aids can vastly increase safety and mitigate common risks associated with driving. Although safety is enhanced with each level of automation, ADAS will continue to take away control from drivers and put it into the hands of highly trained AI models.

From the perspective of enthusiasts, there won’t be a lot to talk about, as most of the actions that give you an adrenaline rush would be replaced by electronics and AI. Redlining the engine down to the highest RPM, downshifting while rev-matching and listening to that eargasmic engine sound, or hitting (almost illegal) top speeds will be spectacles of the past. However, I’m sure there will be niche manufacturers or cultured car communities that will continue to cater to the needs of enthusiasts.

The reason why enthusiasts are resistant to excessive automation of cars is that we like having control over our vehicles, instead of it being the other way around. Vehicles serve as a source of enjoyment for us and help us escape the monotony of our daily lives by bringing in that spark of thrill and satisfaction.

Looking at ADAS from an Indian perspective, we aren’t able to fully utilize it as common Indian roads aren’t as good and few features require proper lane demarcation, good roads, and speeds higher than sixty km/h. Most of our city roads have criminally low speed limits preventing us from using any ADAS capabilities. Although it would be funny to have ADAS confused by the haphazard traffic sense and our roads or lack thereof.

But then, looking at this situation broadly, AI-assisted driving is the future. Fully autonomous driving is not very far away and humans will just remain passengers in a vehicle with an AI driver soon. There might come a time in the future where your choice will become a deciding factor for it to become commonplace on roads. So what side of the future will you be on, a driver who has been forced to relinquish control or a passenger who doesn’t care at all?

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