Carmakers have been packing cars with smart driving features that supposedly make driving safer.
A recent article on Bloomberg News argues that these new features are having an unintended negative outcome. The problems arise because of sensors that:
- Keep cars between the painted lines
- Maintain a constant safe distance from vehicles ahead of you
- Make you aware of other vehicles in your blind spots
- Hit the brakes when you are in danger of a crashing into the next vehicle
When these features were first rolled out to luxury-level cars, they were hailed as the dawn of an age of accident-free travel. And increasingly, we are seeing these technologies built into everyday cars.
But there’s a problem. These safety features may be eroding our driving skills. Research has shown that drivers are making several adaptations to the new technology:
People are paying less attention to the road. Think about it. If the car is so smart, making decisions using better data than you have, why should you have to focus on driving it? “Let the car get me where I’m going, while I play the apps on my smartphone.”
People stop double-checking. If the sensors don’t see another vehicle slipping into your blind spot, then you are surely safe, right? No – you must still look over your shoulder.
Drivers forget how to drive. If you drive a goof-proof car for a year, then have to drive a different car, with fewer sensor gadgets, you will not bring the necessary level of caution and common sense to the analog tasks involved in driving a car.
What is happening is comparable to the advent of pocket calculators. When people learned they could do complex, accurate calculations using the machine, their math skills began to slip.
Carmakers are concerned that safety technologies may have a dumbing-down effect on the nation’s drivers. It’s just another problem facing us in this era of rapid change.