As engineers and software developers continue to make strides toward a truly autonomous vehicle, car companies benefit by implementing numerous safety features to existing vehicle lines. Unfortunately, many safety experts worry that drivers might see these features as a license to be distracted.
The AAA Foundation recently published findings specifically examining two safety features – adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. Adaptive cruise control systems monitor their surroundings and maintain a safe follow distance by adjusting the vehicle’s speed. Lane-assist systems work to ensure the vehicle stays within its designated lane if the driver begins to drift. Unfortunately, with these systems in place, the AAA Foundation found that drivers were “nearly twice as likely to engage in distracted driving” when compared to drivers not using these safety systems.
The researchers realized that part of the problem was that drivers didn’t fully understand the benefits – and limitations – of the safety systems. Drivers might assume that lane-keeping assist technology is the same as blind-spot monitoring technology. Or that adaptive cruise control performs the same function as collision avoidance systems. Drivers might erroneously believe they are protected in ways they are not.
This false sense of safety naturally leads drivers into distractions. With less time spent focusing on the road, drivers can fill their time with additional tasks. Making phone calls, for example, or eating – drivers can quickly find things to do rather than staying focused while behind the wheel. Distracted driving can result in serious accidents and catastrophic injuries such as brain damage, spinal cord damage, paralysis and amputation.