A study initiated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says drivers who gain trust in partially automated systems, such as adaptive cruise control, often engage with electronic devices and take their hands off the steering wheel while driving.
The IIHS partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab to conduct the research studying the driving behavior of 20 volunteers over a month as they became more acquainted with driver assistance features.
The research focused on two types of systems
The volunteers were split into two groups, each one driving models equipped with different features:
- Half drove a Land Rover with adaptive cruise control (ACC), which automatically adjusts the speed chosen by the driver to maintain a specified following distance
- The other half drove a Volvo combining ACC with lane-centering technology designed to keep vehicles positioned within driving lanes
Distractions increased the more drivers used these features
During the initial stages of the study, drivers showed no signs of disengagement from focusing on the road regardless of whether they were driving without the devices in use. However, they were twice as likely to become distracted after a month and 12 times more likely to take both hands off the wheel when using lane-centering tech.
Researchers say these systems are not meant to replace drivers or the need to pay attention to the road at all times. However, the results indicate that many drivers are being lulled into a false sense of security the more they use these systems. Some drivers routinely took their eyes off the road to use a cellphone or adjust controls on the vehicle’s console.
Safety advocates urge adoption of new guidelines
After investigating some of these systems’ limitations and drivers’ increasing reliance on them, the National Transportation Safety Board called for developing standards that minimize driver disengagement, prevent complacency and guard against potential misuse.
The IIHS offered new guidelines over how auto manufacturers can better ensure drivers keep their attention focused on the road. These recommendations discourage automatic lane changes or other maneuvers. They also urged for implementing warning systems that can detect when a driver’s focus or eyes wander.