Judging by the high level of appalling drivers on our stupidly busy roads could regular re-testing be a means of keeping people up to speed on evolving rules and regulations? After all, bad habits creep in over time and it’d certainly be a great way to keep people on their toes. It’d definitely be a solid revenue earner too, but perhaps more importantly it might make our vehicle-choked roads a little more bearable if everyone tried that little bit harder behind the wheel.
However, perhaps it’s technology, rather than testing that’ll be our salvation. From easing congestion to helping with crash avoidance, could in-car tech make our highways and byways more palatable? Hyundai recently invited Gizmodo UK to take on its Different Driving Test, or DDT for short. It was actually more of an effort to publicise Hyundai’s hydrogen, electric and hybrid models to be honest, along with highlighting the benefits of living in a zero emissions world come 2040. or whenever it might actually happen. But driver scrutiny, using lots of tech, was also the central theme of the exercise.
The mission was to drive a short route from London's Waterloo station to a stopping point a few miles up the road. Not really a road trip; more a minor excursion. The outward journey was in a Hyundai Tucson 1.6-litre diesel manual (an SUV) which included Hyundai Smart Sense Technology. This is a feature that uses radar and cameras to monitor the road in order to automatically apply the brakes when it detects a pedestrian ahead or sudden braking by the car in front. Meanwhile, the return journey back to Waterloo was in the cool, but slightly quirky Hyundai NEXO, a hydrogen fuel cell electric SUV.
We’d already driven this premium vehicle last year, from central London out to Heathrow airport. Back then we were impressed by its sophisticated feel, quietness and generous levels of refinement. Oh, and lack of emissions from the tailpipe was a big bonus. But, first to the Hyundai Tuscon and its tech-laden interior. Jumping into the driver's seat we had to put a heart rate monitor on one wrist and get positioned so that the cameras and sensors were all tuned in and ready to go. Setting off on a predetermined route plugged into the sat nav the overall objective was to be a guinea pig for 20 minutes or so.
Engineers from Hyundai, one of which was in the back seat, had created a series of tests designed to monitor and record driver awareness, using eye and facial tracking. There was also a nod shown towards passenger comfort too, based on how we did in terms of braking and acceleration. However, acceleration is pretty hard to pull off when you’re plodding along in near stationary traffic near Waterloo. Meanwhile, driver confidence was measured using an accelerometer that could scrutinise speed in corners and ‘the alignment of G-force’. Again, rather hard to realise given the fact we barely made it over 20mph the whole time. Another biggie was efficiency as in MPG/MPGe per km, while the heart rate monitor, grip sensor on the steering wheel and facial tracking kept an all-seeing set of eyes on just how calm we were as we picked our way through the traffic.
In the Tuscon we averaged 6mph and drove for 26 minutes in average conditions with, it has to be said, little evidence of activity from the Hyundai Smart Sense Technology. On the return journey in the Nexo we drove for 21 minutes with an average speed of 8mph, with much the same feeling from the on-board tech. Unsurprisingly the Nexo felt like the better car to drive, so the results aren’t particularly controversial. You’d also expect it to be the more superior of the two with its nigh on £70 grand asking price. That’s compared to the Tuscon, with its purchase tag of less than a third of that figure.
Unfortunately for us though, the overall verdict we got back from Hyundai and its testing data was that perhaps we should be the ones undergoing a retest. While the stats were largely similar between the two vehicles, both journeys flagged us up as distracted behind the wheel. However, we can’t help but think that being asked all sorts of questions by a PR person in the passenger seat might have been one cause of that.
Adding to the in-car chaos was that engineer in the back seat. He’d been encouraging us to keep the engine idling in the Tuscon, rather than let it cut-out in stationary traffic as it had been designed to do. Otherwise the data might have been screwed. So all in all our experience of Hyundai’s DDT was a curious one. Little wonder we ended up being marked down. What’s more, not only did we get branded ‘distracted’ on both legs of the journey, we also got a ‘dreamer’ accolade as you’ll see from the accompanying images that show some of the data returned.
Nevertheless, perhaps regular re-testing should become part and parcel of having a car licence. Certainly in our case the tech clearly can’t do it alone. On the upside, if we do get sent back to see the examiner hopefully there won’t be someone from Hyundai, or a PR company, sat in the car at the same time. And while the Nexo is a great car, aside from the price, we’ll also need to get a few more outlets for buying Hydrogen here in the UK. With 17 currently available we think running out of fuel might just be the bigger problem here, despite its impressive 400 plus mile range.