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Are driverless cars eroding drivers' skills?

The driverless “technology creep” continues to move along towards the inevitable use of fully autonomous motor vehicles. The transition to operating a car to having a car operate completely on its own is now measured in years.

Current driver-assist technology installed in everyday cars to luxury vehicles can perform tasks an attentive driver once did, including:

  • Keeping cars in their lanes
  • Maintaining safe distances from other vehicles
  • Providing warnings of unseen traffic
  • Deploying the brakes to avoid rear-end crashes

Howeverr, with this advancement comes alarming trends, specifically the erosion of drivers’ skills.

What many see as building blocks of the future may be evolving into obstacles standing in the way of safe driving. Ironically, driverless car manufacturers addressing the problem of inattentiveness behind the wheel are seeing their customers place too much faith in the very technology they are promoting.

As more data comes in, automakers are starting to pay more attention to drivers paying less attention. It goes beyond laziness and inattentiveness. Their trust in technology over themselves is on the rise while their sense of responsibility is becoming more relaxed.

The University of Michigan conducted research on drivers’ use of blind-spot detection systems, specifically when changing lanes. The study shows a significant jump in drivers failing to take the simple step of looking over their shoulders and check for themselves.

Roadway fatalities on U.S. roadways increased 14 percent over the past two years. Crashes killed more than 40,000 people in 2016. While speeding and traffic congestion play a significant role, distracted driving remains one of the primary culprits. With the increased use of cellphones and other handheld devices, eyes focus on tweet and texts instead of the road.

AAA’s urging of automakers and regulators to develop standard terms and parameters for semi-autonomous features may be falling on deaf ears. The competitive nature of the industry fuels companies to secure an edge over their competition.

The battle for the cutting edge may see manufacturers putting profits over safety.

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Oklahoma City, OK 73118

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