New safety technology continues to make headway in the automobile industry. In fact, many new vehicles already come standard with features that were previously unimagined. Moreover, the auto industry is ushering in new features designed to reduce traffic accidents caused by human error.
But this technology can have negative and dangerous consequences if not used with care. And while these new features can be beneficial, they’re far from flawless.
Weighing the pros and cons
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that two emerging safety features have been put to the test. These include:
- Adaptive cruise control: This can prevent rear-end accidents by automatically keeping a safe distance from a leading vehicle and applying the brakes when needed.
- Active lane-keeping: This helps keep drivers in their lanes by automatically correcting the steering.
The problem with these features is that they occasionally fail to do what they were designed to do in the first place. When testing adaptive cruise control and active lane-keeping, automobile engineers experienced occasional glitches.
When tested in multiple scenarios, adaptive cruise control was reliable at stopping or slowing down to prevent a collision. However, there were a few instanced when the test vehicle failed to stop.
When tested on curves and hills, active lane-keeping proved to be reliable for the most part. There were, however, a few instances when the test driver had to disengage the steering assistance feature and manually steer the vehicle back in its lane.
Since these features have proven to be effective most of the time, drivers are susceptible to becoming too comfortable and reliant on them. This could lead to distracted behavior. In fact, an Esurance survey found that 21 percent drivers using semi-autonomous features admitted to being “sometimes” or “often” distracted. Forty-three percent of those drivers said they were “occasionally” distracted and 36 percent said they were “rarely” distracted behind the wheel.
By comparison, here are the numbers for drivers who did not use semi-autonomous features: 16 percent were “often” or “sometimes” distracted, 39 percent were "occasionally” distracted, and 45 percent were “rarely” distracted. In other words, drivers who use those semi-autonomous features are giving back some of the safety gains by driving while distracted.
Drivers must still pay attention
Despite the intended purpose of emerging safety features, drivers are urged not to engage in distracted driving. All it takes is one, brief instance where a system malfunctions to cause a serious crash. For this reason, human responsibility is still crucial, no matter how advanced the technology.