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With the recent advancements in Electric Vehicles or EVs as they’ve come to be known, we’ve seen a huge change in the way we drive our cars. For instance, the Honda E has replaced its side mirrors with cameras that project the image onto the dash – but that’s an obvious one; subtle changes have been taking place in the past decade of car manufacturing, slowly changing the way we drive. Blind-spot detection is a new technology that is making waves throughout the entire industry, not just in EVs. This safety system senses oncoming vehicles that may be in your blind spot using radar technology. Another common one is the back-up camera. It feels like a long time since the back-up camera has been integrated into new vehicles, allowing drivers to not have to look over their shoulder when backing up.  

These technologies, though safe, have been subtly changing the way we drive and that may not be so safe. With back-up cameras, despite the warnings from the manufacturers, people don’t look behind anymore; with blind spot detection, the same story. We get used to the technology being there and become lazy, relying on it. However, there is another new technology that is becoming more and more common, single pedal cars- or e-pedals they’ve been dubbed, and the safety of this tech can be questioned. 

These pedals work like mostly like the two-pedal system in combustion engine cars with a slight twist. Pressing down on the pedal causes acceleration while letting go causes deceleration due to wind resistance and tire friction, simple right? Well, what I didn’t tell you was when you let go of the pedal, the strong regenerative braking kicks in, recapturing all possible energy as the car slows to a stop. To new drivers of this technology, this can feel sudden and unexpected. The Nissan Leaf is the most notable example of having e-pedals though more and more vehicles are coming out with it. 

You may be wondering if these cars with e-pedals have a brake pedal. The short answer: yes. The brake pedal is still where you left it, however it is used for emergency or aggressive braking while the e-pedal is supposed to be used for more gentle and gradual stops when engaged. Some cars even have it so you can control the deceleration by pressing the paddles behind the steering wheel. However, it should be noted that the single-pedal is a mode that can be disengaged like ECON or Sport mode- you can return to normal driving whenever you please. It’s reported that first time drivers with the e-pedal get used to it quickly and they’ll stop much earlier than necessary. People who have had the experience of driving an electric car with this new technology say that it quickly becomes natural and its easier than a manual transmission.  

However, this still brings into question whether this new way of driving safe. After all, you are letting go of the only real control you have on the vehicle in hopes it stops itself in time and not rams into the back of Jan’s Prius. At the end of the day, yes, this technology is safe, but the question is not about the technology itself but how it changes the drivers along the way.  

When learning to how to drive, even in this day and age of new-fangled technologies busying up your dash, we are always told to look behind us, check your blind spots manually, and never rely on what the computer tells you because it could be flawed. Same goes for the e-pedal. Learning to use it is probably a lot of fun and it is more efficient when braking in a city, but we shouldn’t always rely on the car to know when to stop. We must keep a toe on the brake pedal because sometimes technology fails. Sure, we humans are flawed too but we also have one thing that computers haven’t learned- the ability to improvise.  

So, remember, always look behind you, check over your shoulder, and keep your foot hovering over the brake because you just never know when you’ll have to improvise.