My big blind date with a Merc as Continental put the brakes on cheap tyres
It was a blind date with a difference. All the windows of the Mercedes E-Class were completely blotted out. Not a pin-prick of vision. I relied entirely on cameras and sensors to get me around. I crawled and sweated, but I negotiated a tight test slot (short turns, reversing, parking) without a glitch.
I was a little disorientated. I looked over my shoulder (waste of time) on occasion. This is future driving; safer driving, better-visibility driving.
And behind this Mondello Park demonstration was Continental. I know you think 'tyres' when you hear the name, but that only accounts for 26pc of business (still 150m tyres a year). Chassis, powertrains, interiors, technology are other key divisions.
Core elements of my blind-date Merc were Continental (scroll-n-click rotary command area, double display screen and much more).
My Merc 'drive' was designed to show how future cars will rely on such technology and how helpful it will be in poor visibility - as well as underlining how important it is not to be distracted by phones etc.
I gave that Continental, sorry Mercedes, screen my full attention, I assure you.
And I sat in another Merc while the driver got out and parked the car remotely - with me in it. Strange feeling.
Next step, soon unveiled, will be the car learning the route into your drive, garage and parking itself.
And so from the future to the present and the everlasting debate over tyres. Look, it's simple. You mostly get what you pay for; lots of us pay for cheap ones and risk accident and injury.
I drove, braked and swerved on both cheap and quality (yes Continental) tyres. There were big differences in road holding and stopping distance. I'm talking many metres shorter in the wet on decent tyres. The difference between life and death. Yes, I've written that line a million times, but it is only when you see the difference in real life that you realise it.
I'm told some people like yourself and myself got a chance to try out the different tyres around Mondello at the weekend and were amazed. I'm not surprised.
Finally, I think, after a short stint, that 3mm tread depth gives a more secure grip than the 1.6mm minimum legal requirement, especially in the rain - contrary to what Michelin argues.
Something tells me there will be an eyes-wide-open date for more tests on that front.