A study by the University of Iowa and AAA Foundation finds drivers like new technologies designed to help them drive safer — but they don’t understand all the limitations of those systems.
Dan McGehee is the director of the U-I’s National Advanced Driving Simulator. “People still need to learn more about these systems, more about systems than others,” McGehee says. “So for instance– blind spot monitoring systems — there’s some limitations in terms the older blind spot monitoring systems are not as good at seeing passing motorcyclists or bicyclists if you are in slower traffic. We just basically found that a number of these technologies…we need to get better education out there for them.”
Researchers found that nearly 80 percent of drivers with blind spot monitoring systems were unaware of limitations or incorrectly believed the system could accurately detect vehicles passing at very high speeds or bicycles and pedestrians. The study found with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking — nearly 40 percent of drivers did not know the system’s limitations, or confused the two technologies — incorrectly reporting that forward collision warning could apply the brakes in the case of an emergency when the technology is only designed to deliver a warning signal. Roughly one in six vehicle owners in the survey reported that they did not know whether or not their vehicle was equipped with automatic emergency braking.
McGehee says the systems are an aid, and not meant to take the place of drivers.”They’re essentially looking over your shoulder as the driver, so if you get distracted and you drift out of you lane it is going to warn you or gently push you back in the lane. Or if you are in stop-and-go traffic and you get distracted, it will slam on the brakes for you,” McGehee explains. “But these are not automate technologies in any way.”
McGehee says drivers need to learn these new systems — much like drivers did when anti-lock brakes began showing up in cars 20 years ago. “We very much had to relearn how we braked,” according the McGehee. “In Iowa winters and the midwest we’re used to pumping our brakes in the previous generation of cars and now we need to hold those brakes firm, as they says ‘stomp and steer.” A really great technology to help the stability of a car on ice.” He says the education of drivers to help them use the new technologies is already underway.
He says it is a multi-tiered approach with the automakers providing better education, driver’s education teachers doing more to educate new drivers, and the U-I program “MyCarDoesWhat.org. McGehee says the “My Car Does What” program allows you to learn what the technologies in your car are designed to do and not do.
The advent of the new technologies comes at a time when there is also a lot of talk about automated cars that drive themselves. McGehee says drivers need to realize the difference between the two. “We’re pretty far off from having regular production automated cars that we’re going to go out and ride and in and purchase,” McGehee says. “But these technologies today, these advanced driver assistance systems, are really a set of life-saving technologies that are going to be very important in reducing the crash rates — the very high crash rates that we have in the U.S.,” McGehee says. “Last year we killed about 40,000 people on U.S. roads alone. That’s a big public health issue and these technologies are really going to help reduce those awful statistics.”
The study found at least 70 percent of vehicle owners say they would recommend technology to other drivers. The greatest proportion of drivers reported trusting blind spot monitoring systems (84 percent), followed by rear-cross traffic alert (82 percent), lane departure warning (77 percent), lane keeping assist (73 percent), forward collision warning (69 percent) and automatic emergency braking (66 percent).
AAA encourages you to read your owner’s manual to learn what systems are installed in your vehicle. And be an informed buyer by asking plenty of questions about the alerts, functions, capabilities and limitations of the vehicle’s safety technologies before leaving the dealership. They say you should insist on an in-vehicle demonstration and test drive to better understand how the systems will engage on the roadway.