Technology is a powerful ally, if understood and used accordingly. In the case of advanced safety technology available on many cars, it so happens that many drivers don’t understand its limitations, which means they also tend to rely on it too much.
These safety features, like blind-spot monitoring systems, adaptive cruise control, and automatic emergency braking, are meant to prevent accidents by aiding the driver. However, because many drivers still don’t understand how exactly they work, the effect is the opposite, a recent study by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, cited by USA Today, reveals.
“A substantial proportion of respondents demonstrated what we believe was a concerning lack of awareness of some of the key limitations of the technologies,” Brian Tefft, senior researcher for the AAA Foundation, tells the publication.
For instance, about 80 percent of respondents didn’t know how blind-spot monitoring worked. They assumed the system was able to detect fast-approaching cars, bicycles and pedestrians, with 25 percent of them relying solely on it when switching lanes.
Over 40 percent of the drivers questioned couldn’t tell the difference between forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, while 29 percent of respondents admitted to “engaging in other activities” when the adaptive cruise control mode was on, thinking it was enough to prevent a crash.
“I think there's a general assumption among members of the public that technologies in vehicles today will do things for us,” Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research for AAA, says. “These technologies are not meant to replace us behind the wheel. They’re meant to help us out.”
Nelson believes it’s carmakers and dealers’ responsibility to “educate” drivers on what technology can and can’t do for them when they’re at the wheel. This should start with marketing, which should stress the limitations of technology, instead of making it sound as if cars could really drive themselves, without human interventions.
The next step, Nelson says, would be to continue educating drivers when they buy a new car.