The day started with my perfect half-full flight landing at the quaint Burbank airport. As I walked down the steps and onto the tarmac at gate A2, the weather was perfect. I met my chauffeur and off we went to the Rose Bowl and Kidspace Museum.
The Kidspace Museum is so cool. My kids could find hours of activities to do there, even my 10 yr old who quickly proclaims everything boring if it’s not moving at the speed of light. There are lots of tactile activities nature activities and climbing experiences.
Lunch was catered by Wolfgang Puck. Woot!
This is the first safety camp and is in response to the Lexus/Toyota recalls that have been in the news lately. It’s a PR thing or as Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.”
At the Lexus Enform station, we learned about the computers that help the driver: things like navigation, eDestination, Safety Connect, Automatic Collision Notification, and Stolen Vehicle Location Information. The website for learning about these options is www.LexusDrivers.com; this is a seriously smart computer in these cars now. It’s amazing what can be downloaded into them. Safety Connect is Lexus’ version of OnStar, but at a lower price point because Lexus doesn’t offer remote door unlocking (can’t lock your key in a Lexus 😉 ). A basic subscription will run you $139.95 per year while using interactive features like eDestination and Destination Assist will cost you $264.90 per year.
Brake Override System
At the Brake Override station, we discussed the unintended acceleration events of the last year. The professional driver running this station had been a race car driver and technician for some time and assured us that he’d never seen a situation where unintended acceleration couldn’t be explained away by driver error. We got to drive 2 cars: one set up with a brake override system and one without. We drove up to about 30 mph and kept our right foot on the gas pedal while braking hard with the left foot. (Sounds easy to do, huh? It’s not!) It was easy to tell the difference between the two: the one with the override system was much more controllable and the engine settled down faster.
Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)
I’m trying to decide if I enjoyed this station the most or the Vehicle Stability Control station: it’s probably a toss-up. For the pure thrill, I’d go for the ABS station definitely. Why? Well, how do you test anti-lock brakes anyway? Of course! You drive really fast and slam on the brakes on a slippery surface. Hoo-eee! We used the RX 450h model for this test and drove it up to 40 mph. Then, when we passed the “braking” sign which was conveniently located at the start of the 1.5” thick strip of sand, we slammed on the brakes and tried to steer the vehicle to the right to turn into the circle that took us back to the start of the course. In the RX 450h that had the ABS disabled (which in turn disabled the speedometer :p), turning the steering wheel to the accomplished nothing; in effect, our vehicle would have smashed into whatever obstacle was in the way. In the RX 450h that had the ABS enabled (plus the vehicle stability control that may have kicked in a bit—I’ll talk about that next), as soon as we hit the sand and turned the steering wheel to the right, we easily maneuvered through the sand and around the circle. The difference was night and day: the ABS-enabled vehicle easily could have avoided an obstacle in front of it as it went 40 mph and hit a patch of 1.5” thick sand while the driver slammed on the brakes. It really does work like they show in the commercials :O.
Vehicle Stability Control (VSC)
So far we learned about how smart the vehicles are and how fun they are to brake. At the VSC station, we learned how fun they are to steer on slippery surfaces! We were kept pretty busy at our stations, obviously, so I didn’t see how the others were doing, but I’m pretty proud to say that yes, I did manage to do a 360. Sigh. Anyway, this is the system that was recently found to have a problem by Consumer Reports and quickly recalled by Lexus on the GX 460, so that’s the vehicle we used at this station. As we swerved through water puddles and skidded around a wet turn, it was fascinating to feel the system kick in and pull the vehicle tightly back into control.
Stephanie Tombrello from SafetyBeltSafe USA was there doing the 5-Step Test with all the kids—I was her scribe for the afternoon session :D. She had a table set up with a range of carseats and got to talk with all participants. Janette Fennell from KidsAndCars.org was there as well explaining the dangers of backovers, frontovers, and kids being left in vehicles unattended. Since she and her group lobbied for trunk release latches, there have been no deaths due to trunk entrapment in vehicles equipped with trunk latches.
The day was spent learning about Lexus vehicles and safety systems and learning about driving safety. I picked up so much from the professional drivers; they really wanted to make sure we came away better drivers from the experience. Since I can’t keep the good stuff to myself, I’ll be posting the tips in future blogs since this one has become a novel. Oh, one final thing that I learned is that the LS 460 gives a good massage after a long day of learning about braking ;).