More automakers are selling cars with increasingly sophisticated systems controlling speed, steering and braking. However, safety advocates warn that too many drivers are becoming over-reliant on this technology.
A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says as drivers become more familiar with systems, such as adaptive cruise control (ACC) and lane-centering technology, they tend to become more distracted and take their eyes off the road.
Research focuses on 20 volunteers
The IIHS teamed with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab, measuring driver engagement of volunteers. The drivers were split into two groups:
- One group of 10 drove a Land Rover with ACC, which adjusts a vehicle’s speed chosen by the driver to stay at a specified safe following distance behind another car
- The others drove a Volvo with ACC plus Pilot Assist, which is a partially automated system combining adaptive cruise control with lane-centering technology designed to keep the vehicle from wandering into other driving lanes
The conclusions for both groups are similar
Researchers noted that little impact was seen over engagement by both groups of drivers in the study’s early stages. However, after a month, all drivers involved were increasingly showing signs of taking their eyes off the road.
They found drivers were 12 times more likely to take both hands off the wheel, some even checking their cellphones or adjusting controls on the vehicle’s console and not focusing on their driving. The study shows the systems are lulling drivers into a false sense of security.
Automakers must increase safeguards
The IIHS issued recommendations for car manufacturers to install warning systems that alert drivers when their attention wanders. U.S. automakers currently have no ratings or standards for evaluating hazards created by these partially automated systems.