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The System of Car Control
Underline to the heading, The System fo Car Control.

The System of Car Control, to quote the definition, is a system or drill, each feature of which is considered in sequence by the driver at the approach to a hazard.

If you feel like switching off at this point, then don’t, because if you can get your head around this you will see how see how this special formula is the backbone of effective road driving and will completely capture your imagination. Certainly, The System of Car Control will help you get far more out of your car ownership experience.

What The System does is to provide a simple and repetitive method of carrying out all those necessary operations within the cockpit of the car that are required to drive it on the road, and whilst cutting out the unnecessary procedures that actually serve no real purpose. It provides a for of road driving that is economical with the amount of physical effort applied to the task, and this is achieved by a repetative, yet simple and uniform format for dealing with hazards.

Anything That Contains Elements of Actual or Potential Danger

Take a hazard, for example. You will read that word often within this website, and will hear us talk about hazards when we are out on the road with you, but what do we mean by that word?

A hazard, to put it in simple terms, is anything that contains elements of actual or potential danger. It is therefore something that requires some form of action or extra consideration above that of travelling at a constant speed on a straight, featureless and empty road.

The parked car at the side of the road is a hazard, mud on the road, a bend, the presence or actions of another road user, a junction, hill crest and a pedestrian crossing. The list is almost endless, but when using The System of Car Control you can deal with every single one of them in exactly the same way, each and every time, all the time.

The Five Phases of The System of Car Control

The System of Car Control consists of 5 features, these being,
  • Information – Identify the hazard ahead and check all mirrors to establish your relationship with all other road users and the road environment itself. Information is a continious process throughout the whole system.
  • Position – Where there is benefit, change road position to improve visibility, or to protect your personal space.
  • Speed – Make necessary changes in speed by use of brakes or deceleration and be ready to stop if necessary.
  • Gear – Having now completed all of the above, select the gear that will provide the best response without passing through other gears.
  • Acceleration – Once it is appropriate to do so, apply power smoothly and progressively to drive the vehicle out of the hazard and into safety.

As the definition says, each feature is ‘considered’ by the driver, which doesn’t say each feature has to be completed. As long as we have thought about them all, and in their usual sequence, and then used the features that are necessary for that particular application, we should never have a problem.

However, it’s all very well talking about what The System of Car Control is, but it is far more interesting to describe how it is applied during familiar road–going scenarios, like negotiating a bend, for example.

Preparing The Car to Drive Around a Bend

Driving from a straight section of road into a substantial bend will commonly require certain actions to be performed by the driver. There will usually be a reduction in speed, which can be achieved either through braking or natural deceleration on a closed throttle.

There will be the selection of a lower gear and the steering input that is going to bring about the required change in direction. There is nothing unique in that, but it’s when you do these things that is important, and in what order.

By use of The System of Car Control you may find the sequence of activities will be different to that which you are used to. If we apply The System to drive around a bend in a manner that is to get the best possible cornering performance from the car, we need plan ahead. That process involves getting as many of the cockpit tasks completed as we can before we begin steering into the bend itself.

By using The System of Car Control, by the time we begin steering to drive around a bend, we have the car well prepared to deal with that task, so it responds in the required manner. So, what is the procedure required to make that happen?

Looking at the diagram, imagine you are driving along a fairly straight road at 60mph in 5th gear, and you are approaching a 20mph bend. First, you identify the location of the bend (I–nformation) after which you may Using the system of car control at the approach to a bend in the road to get the best car performance for cornering. change your position (P–osition) on the road in response to what you see.

As it is a left hand bend you may wish to move the vehicle to the offside of the road, but in this case there is oncoming traffic and so that road position is not an option. However, you can perhaps move out as far as the centre line markings to improve your forward vision.

All the time you approach the bend you continue to assess the view ahead, as well as using your mirrors to assess the situation behind, which is all an ongoing process within the information phase of The System.

As you draw near to the bend, you apply the foot brake smoothly and progressively until you have reduced your speed to the desired level (S–peed). You are going to have to plan your braking well, as it all has to be finsihed before you change gear and then move the steering to drive around the bend.

It may be that you used Acceleration Sense alone to reduce your speed, which is achieved by lifting off the power in plenty of time, so the car arrives at the bend at the required speed without any braking being applied. If you can, that is a very smooth and satisfying way to drive.

(G–ear) Having got the speed of approach right, now it is time to consider which gear you need. Still working with our example, up until the point where you have brought the car down to the right speed for the bend, we would like you to remain in 5th gear throughout (or whatever gear you were originally using before you saw there was a bend ahead).

As the bend in this case demands 2nd gear, after finishing with your one and only application of the brakes, you now change directly to that gear, and without going though 4th and 3rd to get there. Of course, we are only talking about 2nd and 5th gears for our example, but the ratio you choose for your bend should always be one that will give you the best response from the car, relative to whatever road speed at which you will be driving around the bend.

Match Engine Speed With Road Speed to Prevent Clutch Drag

The gear change down the box from 5th to 2nd is best performed with some throttle input so as to match the engine speed with the road speed during the change. This should eliminate any clutch drag that could affect the drive wheels and avoid any control issues that may cause. The smoothest way to down–change is by double–de–clutching, if you can manage it, or at least by use of a sustained–rev gear change.

When you have attained the appropriate speed, have the appropriate gear engaged; take up the appropriate hand position on the wheel ready to begin the turn. Just before you enter the bend, and immediately after your down–change from 5th or 2nd gear, apply a neutral throttle setting. This is where you apply just enough engine power to keep the car driving forward, but car not accelerating. This keeps the car at its best balance point as your drive around a bend.

Once the car is set up in this way, drive it through the curve at a constant speed, and on one steering setting, so you keep to a constant arc (where possible). This method will give you the best cornering performance from you car.

What you will have achieved here is to set up your road position, your speed, selected your gear, set up your hand position on the wheel and applied the appropriate amount of engine power, all before you have even begun to steer. This means all there is left to do when you reach the beginning of the curve is to ease the car into the bend and drive through under complete control.

When driving around a bend in this way the car will be completely balanced and will no doubt respond as sweetly as you could wish for. As the bend begins to open out, you can gently squeeze in more power (A–cceleration) to complete the last phase of The System application, only applying full power (should this be necessary) when the car has fully straightened up.

Applying The System of Car Control to a Roundabout Junction

The same procedure is applied for the next scenario, that of negotiating a roundabout controlled junction.

The system of car control provides an efefctive method with which to negotiate a junction such as a roundabout system.Knowing that you are approaching a roundabout, as early as possible you need to begin looking for clues as to whether you are going to have to stop and give way, or if you can flow onto the junction system with one continuous action. The most effective way to deal with it is to again apply The System of Car Control in exactly the same way as you did for the bend. Again, it works like this.

Information — Examine and assess what you have ahead, check all three rear view mirrors and consider giving a direction signal.

Position — Adjust your road position according to your intended manner of entry to the roundabout system, which in turn will correspond to your intended direction of exit.

Speed — Begin to reduce speed, either by deceleration only, or adding some progressive braking, but without yet making any gear changes.

Gear — As you arrive at the junction, one of two things are going happen. If the way is clear for you to proceed you can flow onto the roundabout system. If it is not clear, you will have to stop and give way. Whatever the case, there will come the point of commitment to the roundabout, and that will be at that moment in time when you choose the gear ratio that is going to best do the job.

It is not until this point, when you are going to commit to the junction, that you change directly to the gear required to obtain the desired response from the car, moving into that gear directly from your approach gear. If you can flow onto the roundabout, the moment when you take that decision is the point when you change to the gear that is going to drive you forward. For example, this could be a change from 5th to 2nd gear, which is perfectly acceptable.

When stopping to give way, bring the car to rest with the original gear still selected. Obviously it will then be first gear that will be the appropriate ratio with which to drive away.

Acceleration — This is the last phase in The System of Car Control and is applied only when all preceding features have been completed and your risk assessment tells you it is now clear to proceed. In other words, this is when you drive out of the hazard.

This completes the five phases of The System of Car Control — I P S G A.

Do You Change Through Every Gear in The Gearbox When Slowing?

Many drivers, when they learned to drive, were taught to move through every gear ratio sequentially, both up and down the gearbox, before reaching the one that they would end up at the one used to drive the car.

This method is actually pointless, as when approaching a roundabout in fourth gear, for example, and you end up driving onto it in first gear, because you had to stop and give way to other traffic. If you arrived to a stop at the Give Way line whilst changing down through every gear in numerical order from 5th, what did you use second, third and second gears for?

1935 Morris 8The method of visiting every gear in the gearbox dates back to the early 1930’s, a time when the driving test was first introduced. Sequential gear changing was required because in those days brakes actually didn’t work very well. Therefore, it was considered beneficial to assist the brakes with the deceleration of the engine.

Technology has moved on since and it is no longer necessary to drive that way, as brakes are now very efficient. Also, it might pay to consider which component parts are the cheapest to replace. Is it brake pads, clutches or gearboxes. Yes, let’s wear the brakes out first, shall we?

We will encourage you to only change to a new gear at the point of commitment to a given situation, so in the case of our roundabout we are saying that you select your new gear only when you know that you can commit to that roundabout system. If you have to stop, then stop in your original approach gear, then take first gear to move off.

When you are to drive around a bend, whilst slowing to the speed at which you are going to enter and drive around a bend, remain in your original approach gear. Once the speed is right, that is the time to change directly to the gear that will drive the car around a bend most efficiently.

If you think about it logically, all that has been described here does make sense, and once you get used to it, you will see that it is simplicity itself. It is a very efficient way to drive, because everything that you are doing, every function you perform, is a necessary function. The System of Car Control takes a lot of the irrelevant work out of the act of actually driving the car and it provides a greater level of safety.

Driving Efficiently, Concentrating Only on What is Necessary

So, there you have it, The System of Car Control. We hope you now understand how, by preparing the car to deal with something, and before you have to deal with it, you can maintain the level of control and stability to the maximum. This is because using The System minimises the amount of disturbance in the balance of the car, so when you do deal with a hazard the car will give you its full level of ability to cope with what you ask of it.

As The System is simple to use, as well as being repetative, the five steps apply to every situation you will meet on the road and make the task of driving so much easier. It also improves safety, because at any point where the maximum degree of control is required, e.g. cornering and braking, the car has been pre–prepared and both hands are on the steering wheel for the task.

There will be those doubting Thomas’s who will wonder where the point of it all is. The point is, by use of The System of Car Control, you have a uniform method of dealing with every situation you could ever meet on the road, and so the procedure is always the same.

The System of Car Control also forces you to do take account more of what is going on around you. For example, take our roundabout scenario. If you tell yourself you are not allowed to change gear until the way ahead is clear to proceed, this makes you search deeper into what you are looking at.

The same with braking. Tell yourself you are only allowed one application of the brakes per manoeuvre (no secondary braking) so you are forced to complete all your braking in one go, and that means getting only one chance to get it right. Doing this makes you think more thoroughly about how you manage the hazard.

Yes, it will feel clumpy and awkward to start with, but that is only because you are challenging your existing habit. Once you allow yourself to get used to it, however, The System of Car Control brings so much more fulfilment to driving.

Automatic Transmission

Don’t think that because your vehicle is fitted with an automatic or semi–automatic gearbox The System of Car Control does not apply, because that would be wrong.

Think of the five phases of the system. Information, Position, Speed, Gear, Acceleration. If you are driving a vehicle with automatic transmission, instead of I P S G A, the method then will be I P S A. It is that easy.

Unfortunately, with a semi–automatic gearbox, such as the tiptronic systems, you cannot practice block–changing in the purist sense, but have no choice but to pass through every gear sequentially. However, a tiptronic gear box is no different to use than a motorcycle gearbox, as in the manner in which it is operated (except you are using your hand instead of your foot) and so you can still apply The System.

As you slow for a 2nd gear bend, and you are approaching in 4th gear, at the end of the braking phase of The System (Speed), it will be two quick flicks of the paddles to get from 4th to 2nd. The same methods can be used when you have to stop. If you arrive in 4th gear it will be 3 flicks of the paddles when stationary to select 1st gear, so as to be ready to move off. This is the same system as used for advanced motorcycle riding.

Julian Smith
Ride Drive Limited

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The System of Car Control

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