Since at least the 1950s, technology enthusiasts have been dreaming of a world in which cars drive themselves and humans are free to relax. That dream may not be a reality for some time, but automakers are already offering partial automation features that take over some driving responsibilities and correct for human error.
But are these systems doing more harm than good? Are they making drivers better, or encouraging them to take less responsibility behind the wheel?
Drivers are getting too comfortable with technology
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently released the results of a study on how partial driving automation systems impact driver behavior. The technology tested included adaptive cruise control, which maintains a preset speed while also maintaining a safe distance behind other vehicles. Some drivers were also outfitted with an additional feature that keeps the vehicle centered in the lane while driving.
At the beginning of the study, drivers were unfamiliar with the features and tended to stay focused and engaged with the task of driving. After about a month, however, when they got used to the new technology, they were more likely to take their hands off the wheel, take their eyes off the road, check their cellphones and manipulate non-essential console controls like the stereo and climate-control features. Drivers who had more automation features were eve more likely to disengage than those with just adaptive cruise control.
Technology cannot replace responsibility
Partial vehicle automation has the potential to reduce accidents by supplementing responsible driving and correcting for human error. But the technology is not foolproof, and it is not meant to even partially replace the human element of driving. Those who become complacent and disengaged are likely to cause serious injury (or worse) to themselves and others. There may come a day when cars are fully autonomous and humans don’t need to pay attention at all, but we are certainly not there yet.
If you or a loved one has been seriously harmed by a negligent and inattentive driver (with or without partial vehicle automation tech), please contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options today.