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Can vehicle safety features make drivers unsafe?


As manufactures continue to make technological strides toward fully autonomous cars and trucks, continuous improvements are made to the safety features of production vehicles. These programs, collectively called advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), fill a wide range of safety needs from lane-keeping assistance to collision detection. Unfortunately, certain gaps in training materials can lead to instances of driver danger.

Marketing materials and training packets that emphasize only the benefits of a feature could ultimately undermine the vehicle’s safety. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety designed a study that would explore how information provided to drivers would impact their understanding of the ADAS features. For the purposes of the study, AAA recruited 90 licensed drivers with no prior experience operating a motor vehicle equipped with a partially automated driving system. The drivers were broken up into two groups:

  • AutonoDrive: The training materials for this fictitious ADAS emphasized the system’s capabilities and driver convenience.
  • DriveAssist: The training materials for this fictitious system emphasized the system’s limitations and the need for driver responsibility.

Drivers in the AutonoDrive vehicle were more likely to report willingness to engage in potentially distracting or risky behaviors. These responses were rooted in their overconfidence with the system and the erroneous belief that the vehicle alone would keep them safe. During the driving phase of the study, drivers in the AutonoDrive vehicles spent more time with their hands away from the steering wheel. Additionally, they were more likely to take a long time to respond (more than five seconds on average) when the safety system was unexpectedly disengaged.

From these results, it is clear that vehicle companies must rely on honesty rather than marketing messages that make their vehicles look safer than they truly are. Advanced driver assistance systems are designed to be used in conjunction with the driver’s responsible operation of a motor vehicle. Systems like blind spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist and collision detection are not meant to completely take over control of the vehicle. When drivers ignore their obligations and become inattentive or negligent while behind the wheel, they can become a hazard on the road.

Distracted drivers can cause devastating collisions leading to catastrophic injuries for all vehicle occupants. If you were injured in a motor vehicle crash, it is wise to explore your legal options for monetary compensation.