Has Launch Control taken the skill-part out of driving fast?
Thanks to modern technology, any idiot with a big enough checkbook, can press a button and make his Corvette perform panty-dropping launches, all day long. He no longer needs to experiment in order to determine the perfect RPMs at which to drop the clutch. And if Mr. Mid-Life P. Crisis can’t manage a stick, he needn’t worry. His 20-clutch automated manual has the same button.
Developed in the 1980’s for Formula 1 cars, launch control uses computers to limit wheelspin, while giving you the most effective amount of horsepower from a dead stop. Using this program can cut several tenths off of your 0-60 time, and it contributes to many car’s staggering 0-60 times. Without launch control, your Bank VP special wouldn’t look as good on paper.
In case you didn’t know, your gas pedal is no longer connected to the engine. It’s wired to a pressure sensor, which tells the ECU how much ‘go power’ you want. Once the car’s abacus stops clacking, a solenoid moves the throttle to the desired position, propelling you down the road. In olden times, the Go-Pedal was attached to the engine with a cable, and it simply pulled the throttle open every time you asked the engine room for more steam. ETC has become standard on nearly every new car sold today, and it contributes to fuel efficiency by regulating the amount of fuel going into the engine, based on a set of parameters which are dictated by the Engine Control Unit.
Launch control uses ETC to gradually apply the amount of throttle needed to avoid wheelspin, while launching the car with the maximum available power. But just pressing a few buttons to get off the line fast, reduces your interaction with the vehicle, and allows anyone that can operate a button, to achieve heroic acceleration. So taking time to actually ‘learn’ the vehicle is no longer required. And that’s a bad thing. A very bad thing.
The adaptation of automotive computer systems has slowly shifted the task of driving from the person behind the wheel, to the machine itself. Cars can now detect impending obstacles, and steer or brake to avoid them. Knowing these systems will protect them, can cause many drivers to be less careful, as they might have been if they had to control the vehicle themselves. Similarly, launch control reduces the process of ‘going fast’ to pushing a button, and matting the throttle. There’s no sense of ‘mastering the machine’, and that can cause apathy toward going fast. If you’re a driver of limited skill, who thinks they’re now good enough to drive quickly, such indifference could kill you.
So what do you think? Is this just a bunch of fear mongering hogwash? Or is there a potential problem with all of these electronic driver aids?
Let us know what you think by posting a comment below…