New equipment designed to make driving easier and safer is actually putting everyone on the road more at risk, according to a new study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The group says the systems can make the road a safer place when used correctly, but drivers put too much trust in them and tend to let their attention wander while behind the wheel.
Researchers focus on two types of technology
The results show the difficulties that carmakers face as they continue a slow transition to self-driving vehicles. The study focused on specific safety systems found on many new cars:
- Lane-keeping assist: LKA technology aids drivers in keeping in their lane by softly correcting a car’s direction once it starts to drift.
- Adaptive cruise control: ACC uses a camera or radar or laser sensors to maintain a safe distance between cars on the highway by slowing or accelerating the vehicle without the driver’s actions.
Yearlong study reveals disturbing results
Researchers observed Virginia drivers who participated in the one-year study, as some drove their personal vehicles, while others were provided cars with the two systems for one month.
The AAA study concludes that drivers whose cars have the safety technology are twice as likely to be distracted, while those who aren’t familiar with ACC and LKA are less likely to let their focus waver.
Carmakers need to step up education efforts
Researchers studied several vehicles with ACC and LKA, including the Tesla Model S, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Acura MDX, Jeep Cherokee and Honda Accord. They say the research doesn’t mean the systems are fundamentally dangerous, but that the auto industry must do a better job of teaching drivers about their limitations.