By Erin Delmore
“I thought to myself, how ridiculous is this?” said Assemblyman Lou Greenwald.
That’s the reaction of a father whose daughter was just told she can’t take her driver’s test.
“I’m not so old that I don’t remember how nervous you were on the way there. Her palms were a little sweaty, she had friends who did not pass, she wanted to pass and we were right up against the clock, it was approaching 5, and I have to tell you when she got out of the car, we walked into the lobby, the people at DMV went out with us and they looked at the car and they said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, you can’t take the test,’” Greenwald said.
Why? The car has a backup camera with sensors that beep when the car gets a little too close to another object.
“The camera goes on. You can see the bumper of the car that we’re going to end up parking next to. It shows up with the sensor a little bit. But I still have to manually, I have to maneuver this,” Greenwald said.
For Greenwald’s daughter, the solution was as easy as putting a notepad over the monitor.
“But it shouldn’t come to that. And you shouldn’t be putting DMV employees in a position where they’re trying to figure out some unique mechanism by which to allow a child to take a test,” he said.
Greenwald sponsored legislation to allow the use of rearview cameras and parking sensors during road tests. Gov. Chris Christie signed it into law.
Greenwald says this so-called “advanced technology” is becoming the standard. By 2018, all new vehicles manufactured in the U.S. will be required to have backup cameras. So by the time today’s third-graders go to take their road test, it’s going to be hard to find any cars on the road that don’t have them.
“But it didn’t stop us, when I had to teach my daughter how to parallel park, you still taught the basics of where’s that rear bumper in your window as you’re making the turn. It was still the basics. The technology was almost an afterthought. And when you hear that sensor, it’s a sign for you to look. And to maybe even look more carefully,” he said.
“You’re going to have cars with advanced technology and using the backup camera’s OK. I just think that if you’re going to take the test with the camera, you should also do it without so that in case you are in a car that doesn’t have a backup camera, you know how to do it. You shouldn’t take away knowing the skill just because you have an advantage with a backup camera, because it may not always be available to you,” said Camden resident Byheijja Sabree.
Greenwald says backup cameras don’t give new drivers an unwarranted advantage when it comes to passing the test. He said it makes them safer on the road, full stop. I asked him whether we’ll be seeing self-driving cars lined up to take the road test. He said that’s next.