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Are Modern Vehicle Features Placing Drivers in Danger?

A Tesla driving on autopilot

A number of modern systems that are designed to make driving easier may actually be placing drivers in danger, according to a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. A USA Today news report points to the study, which states features in vehicles such as adaptive cruise control and lane-assist technologies lull drivers into letting their guards down, thereby putting them at a greater risk of a car accident.

When used properly, the technologies help keep drivers safer. However, researchers are finding that many drivers place too much trust in the systems. The results of this study become even more important as the auto industry sinks more money into researching autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, which boast a lot of these features.

Drivers Could Get Complacent

Evidence increasingly suggests that drivers often don’t properly use or even understand partially automated driving systems. Researchers said one of the main objectives of this study is to raise awareness among drivers that these systems merely support systems and that drivers should always remain alert and attentive, even if they have these features in their vehicles.

For example, adaptive cruise control maintains a safe distance between vehicles by automatically accelerating or slowing down with the driver’s help. Lane-keeping assist technology helps drivers stay in their lane with a vibration of the steering wheel when the car begins to drift. However, both of these systems require drivers to remain alert and keep their hands on the wheel.

According to AAA, drivers who are less familiar with these modern systems are likely to get complacent or even distracted. Researchers studied a wide range of vehicles, including the Tesla Model S, Acura MDX, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Jeep Cherokee and the Hyundai Sonata.

There is No Replacement to Attentiveness

Our car accident attorneys believe safety features such as lane-keeping assist are important. However, the auto industry needs to do a better job of making motorists more aware of the limitations of such systems. While these are sophisticated systems, they cannot often make complex decisions in real-life situations. Automakers with these types of technologies and other semi-autonomous features need to market them appropriately. Otherwise, we will likely see more drivers being lulled into a false sense of security over the belief that these systems will keep them safe.


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California Personal Injury Blog