As motor vehicle technology continues to advance, operating a car or truck has become safer. Collision warnings, automatic braking, and a litany of other features have prevented many accidents. High-profile companies in the business of delivering food and other sundries have found ways to provide driverless service to their customers.
However, with the cutting-edge perks with cars that can drive themselves comes complacency, if not dangerous, misconceptions. While companies are testing these conveyances, fully autonomous driving remains out of reach for consumers. At some point, human intervention is necessary.
Understanding the distinction is vital to saving lives. While the idea of “catching a few winks” while a car is moving truly autonomously, the technology to ensure safety is still a long way into the future. Those that exist have features limited to highway travel where GPS, maps, cameras, and radar combine to help guide the vehicle. Even in those cases, the technology is not 100 reliable, nor does it pretend to be.
Manufacturers are creating confusion with their creative branding strategies, creating dangerous and deadly misconceptions. For example, Tesla refers to their autopilot feature as “full self-driving,” although they require the driver to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
Simply put, these technological marvels still mandate help from the driver, particularly when unexpected and dangerous conditions are ahead. Drivers must be vigilant. Construction zones and missing data on maps will result in the technology reverting control to the driver. Notifications can come from the steering wheel’s flashing lights or vibrations in the seat.
General Motors’ current fleet of cars with “Super Cruise” requires responsibility and attention from the driver. A camera in the steering column tracks a driver’s eyes to ensure they stay on the road. The slightest wandering gaze will sound alarms and display flashes. Operators who continue to ignore those warnings will be forced to take over.
Until full autonomous vehicles with the highest safety standards are on the market, drivers will have to continue to stay alert if not awake.