We informed readers in “Auto Insurers: Hardly Progressive,” in our July/August 2017 issue, that automobile insurance companies typically don’t provide a premium discount to owners of vehicles that have advanced safety systems. A reason that two insurers gave us for this is that vehicle owners can turn off some of those systems. One automotive safety consultant can see the same argument being applied to new technology that alerts a driver to slippery road conditions.
Sumitomo Rubber Industries, which manufactures Dunlop and Falken tires, says its proposed Sensing Core system uses existing technology from its tire-deflation-warning system and existing data from a vehicle’s antilock braking system or electronic stability control system to sense road conditions and alert a driver when those conditions become dangerous. (Automakers wouldn’t have to add sensors to a vehicle.) According to the company, if the technology were adopted, it might include an option that allows the driver to turn off the alert function.
Automotive safety consultant Byron Bloch believes that automakers shouldn’t put the technology into production until testing is conducted with representative groups of drivers out to see how it affects their driving behavior.
Regardless of that technology, Bloch recommends that, to prevent your vehicle from hydroplaning because of slippery conditions, you should replace all four of its tires at least every 6 years, depending on your vehicle’s mileage and your driving habits. He adds that if you purchase two replacement tires, it’s a false assumption that those should go on the front of the vehicle. You don’t want all of the vehicle’s stopping power to be in the front, particularly during a rainy day: In that scenario, when you apply the brakes, the rear of the vehicle lifts a bit off the ground, and the resulting shift in weight might cause the vehicle to hydroplane.