Fighting the dark side
He likes to be regarded as a Jedi (born on May (the) 4th (be with you)), and ‘the force’ does indeed seem to have been on his side. In reality though he’s a Brummy boy. While school wasn’t a great success, “College and A-Levels were awful – worst 2 years of my educational life – and I was told in no uncertain terms that ‘I would never get anywhere and don’t bother going to University’. One BSc and MSc later …”. Being brought up in an area steeped in motoring history and engineering, it is probably no surprise that he’s a sought-after engineer, vehicle tester and trainer. Nic Fasci’s job? Understanding motor vehicles, their design and engineering, through to how to drive them, whether at the limit, or safely and legally on our roads.
It was a gorgeous white MG Metro… my first driving lesson was on my 17th Birthday 1991 with an amazing instructor called Mr Davis. If he could get my mum to pass her test, I should be fine. I passed first time after six weeks. He was calm, collected and his methods of teaching were brilliant. Never once was he flustered, and he taught me the most important thing ever about driving: “Your driving licence is a privilege not a right and if you abuse that privilege, you lose it”.
I don’t think people actually take training and the test that seriously… it’s seen as a ‘right’ not a privilege these days. People are taught to pass a test – ‘drive like this and you will pass’. Little emphasis is given to attitudes, conduct and some of the pretty basic rules.
I was off to do a music degree at Canterbury… I had a scholarship to study the organ. Six weeks before I was due to go, something slapped my brain about and said ‘No!’. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. Instead I started at Toyota Derbyshire, went to MG Rover (my best five years before we closed in 2005), then a great time at the Vehicle Certification Agency and so on. I never thought I’d end up where I am now, being involved with some amazing manufacturers and getting to drive, test and ride vehicles that I could only dream of driving! I certainly didn’t think I’d ever head up a UK company looking after the likes of and driving McLarens, Bentleys, Aston Martins, Triumphs or fire engines!
I’m tied into the advanced side of driver training… one of my many jobs is training engineers to drive safely on a track in prototype vehicles, including autonomous vehicles. Too often they are great minds, designers and engineers, but not necessarily drivers.
Every new or old driver needs to take responsibility… driver training needs to ensure everyone knows how their vehicles operate and what each and every system does, and how it can affect the vehicle, and I don’t just mean how the air conditioning system, SatNav or windscreen wipers work.
Young drivers don’t help themselves… the society we’ve built up is probably to blame. There seems to be a distinct lack of respect and discipline for everything in general, and this is evident when you discuss things with new drivers. They all think that they can ‘drive’ because they’re amazing on an xBox for example where there is always a reset button!
I don’t think ADIs get enough credit… my assessments and training of engineers is a two-hour drive spent with an elevated heartbeat and eyes everywhere to make sure the driver is competent – and these are people who can apparently drive already. Taking someone out who is totally green to driving into a world where the patience and tolerance levels are at an all-time low on the roads deserves more credit that I think people realise!
Who asked for all this new technology… certain things like ABS were done for a reason and by manufacturers and engineers. Now too much development is driven by marketing bods in a race to see who can connect what to a car and it’s getting too complicated for the average driver. More training is essential and needs to come from the manufacturer to the dealer, and then dealers need to have a sales environment that encourages training of new customers because average drivers do not understand how half the systems work, making them a potential hindrance rather than a help to safer driving.
Technology is creating a warm fuzzy safety net… drivers think that they are invincible. The more we complement drivers with ‘nannytronics’, the more capable they think they are and eventually ambition outweighs talent at a much higher speed! Technology is supposed to be there as a ‘silent insurance policy’, but instead drivers are too often cocooned from the real world. It’s very worrying.
Attitude behind the wheel is key… the psychology of driving is mind-bendingly interesting and increasingly recognised as the major factor in RTCs. People are becoming more impatient, arrogant and unaware of their surroundings and responsibilities. The mind-set of the new driver has to be set within the first few lessons and maintained throughout the learning experience. Ideally it needs to begin at school, pre-driving age. Skills can be learnt; attitude and respect are formed – this needs more consideration.
I’m fearful of what the future holds for our roads… we are about to go through a massive transition of vehicle technology, but if drivers don’t understand it, or aren’t trained to use it, it will be abused and only result in more danger and fatalities. The race for ‘marketing’ points and sales, combined with people expected to do more in less time, mean the pressures only lead to people taking more risks. The standard of instruction needs to escalate to a level where people are fully aware of what they are doing, with what and why, and they must be encouraged to seek post-test training.
The DeLorean was just such a fantastic concept – just poorly executed… a guilty pleasure, it handles like a blancmange, it wasn’t massively (if at all) reliable, it’s slow and doesn’t stop that well, it’s funding was dubious (OK, downright illegal) but if I could have a car on the drive now, it would be a DeLorean. This in turn would be parked next to a McLaren 675LT… an amazing project that I loved working on.
Nic Fasci will be contributing a new series of articles for us about understanding modern motoring tech and what needs to be taught.