For most people, taking a driving test is an incredibly stressful experience. Pottering about town with a grim-faced examiner by your side, all the while knowing that just one small slip could cost you your chance of a licence makes for an extremely tense time. Failure is devastating, while passing is little short of euphoric.
The sense of freedom that comes with success is precious but imagine what life would be like if even after you passed, your driving instructor continued to sit beside you and point out your every mistake. That’s just what it’s like driving a car that has been fitted with the Masternaut, a gadget that seeks to improve your driving to increase economy and reduce traffic accident claims.
Essentially a black-box-style data recorder for cars, the Masternaut uses a combination of GPS, gyroscopes and inertia detectors, along with information supplied by the engine’s management system, to work out exactly how fast you are travelling, how sharply you turn and how hard you rev the engine.
We all start out as relatively safe and sensible drivers, especially in the days following our tests. It does not take long, however, for bad habits to start creeping in. We accelerate away from traffic lights at the first sign of amber, brake too late and generally exceed the speed limit, especially in urban areas. These bad habits, along with a false sense of security, are often a contributing factor in accidents. By keeping you on your toes, the Masternaut could help make you a safer driver.
Although the information it provides can help reduce accidents, the real aim of the Masternaut is to cut fuel consumption by alerting drivers to times when they have left their vehicles idling for too long or they accelerate too harshly. Many cars already have onboard computers and the sobering sight of watching a MPG figure drop like a lead balloon every time you stamp on the accelerator pedal has taught many drivers the best ways of becoming more frugal.
Initially aimed at fleet drivers – cutting just a small proportion of fuel costs could mean huge savings for some companies – the system is certain to eventually find its way to every car. In the event of an accident, information collected from the Masternaut could even be used to help verify a claim.
Systems which are capable of stopping a vehicle automatically have already been fitted to some new Mercedes models. This helps prevent one of the most common types of low-speed shunt – where a driver starts forward because they think there is a gap in the traffic, only to find the motorist in front of them has not yet moved forward.
The only downside to the Masternaut is that its introduction is likely to prove once and for all something that insurance companies already know – that women are generally far better and much safer drivers. With a little black box providing visual and auditory proof every time a male driver with a heavy right foot performs an unnecessary manoeuvre or drives too aggressively, the Masternaut could all too easily open up a brand-new front in the battle between the sexes.
This article was written on behalf of Hughes Carlisle.