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Are Drivers Depending Too Much on Warning Systems?

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On: Sat, Dec 13, 2014 at 8:46AM | By: Karen Cook

Are Drivers Depending Too Much on Warning Systems?

Modern technology is great! It can help lowly human beings in a variety of situations—when it works. The problem with technology is that it is designed by the lowly individuals who use it and can have the same sorts of limitations as the designer. Another issue is that users frequently come to depend on it to the exclusion of common sense and personal responsibility.

AAA has just released a study which brought these issues to the forefront. The study covered the driver assist features now common in automobiles. The findings showed that “while the systems performed effectively in multiple situations, this evaluation uncovered scenarios where the systems failed to perform as expected.”

Blind-spot monitoring was a big issue. The study found that system had trouble detecting fast moving vehicles or gave an alert too late for the driver to respond efficiently. The monitor also did not detect motorcycles dependably.

Lane-departure warnings had trouble too, if the road conditions were less than ideal. The system could not reliably keep track of lanes if the roads were snowy, icy or wet. These happen to be the same situations where a human driver has decreased capacity for lane detection.

AAA also determined that many of the alert and warning signals are confusing to the driver. The effectiveness of such systems drops considerably if the driver cannot determine what the car is trying to say. If it takes too long to figure out it may be too late for any reaction. Also, if the signals are a distraction or cause the driver to lose focus on the road, they may cause the very accidents which they were designed to avoid.

According to John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering, “These systems are a great asset to drivers, but there is a learning curve.”

Even the user manuals that come with these systems from the manufacturer contain warnings. Blind-spot detectors are stated to be designed for highway vehicles only and may not detect bicycles, motorcycles, humans, or animals. Some of them will not operate if the car is moving at a certain low speed, usually between 5 to 20 mph. If other vehicles are moving significantly faster or slower, those may be missed as well. Many do not function in reverse.

The bottom line is, using these systems is fine but they do not replace the human capacity to drive safely. If you depend too much on your car to warn you of dangerous situations, you are doomed. Put down the phone, focus on the road, and just drive.

12-12 arm


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