The main purpose of advanced car technologies like self-driving systems and various sensors is to remove the human factor from the equation. However, other modern technologies such as voice commands, wireless infotainment systems, and automated safety features aim to make driving more comfortable, which can also be distracting for the human brain.
The gap between the technologies that could make driving safer (still in development) and the ones that make driving a more pleasant experience (available now) led to more distracted drivers on the road, driving more powerful cars. In fact, according to recent data from the National Safety Council, distracted drivers are the cause behind hundreds of thousands of accidents each year (some of which are fatal).
Now, most people think that, just because a feature is available or can be installed in their car, it must be safe to use. However, modern tech such as infotainment systems, automated safety features, and autopilots are among the most distracting technologies one can have in their vehicle (especially if not used properly).
Infotainment Systems & the Myth of Multitasking
According to Autojusticeattorney.com, many of their customers were involved in an auto accident with a distracted driver. Even more, in most cases, the distracted driver was texting, using their hands-free device to talk on the phone, or using the voice command feature to communicate with the car’s infotainment system.
Now, besides holding the smartphone and texting, none of the other causes mentioned above are illegal. In fact, authorities recommend using a hands-free device and voice controls over the standard ones because they allow the driver to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel.
Still, these actions can be distracting even if you have to look at them. An inexperienced driver or someone who doesn’t drive as often (although this doesn’t apply exclusively to them) will have a more difficult time dividing their focus between traffic and communicating with the electronics in their car. According to the aforementioned National Safety Council, a driver who is distracted by something, like a phone call, is going to miss about 50% of what’s actually going on around them.
There are various studies showing that multitasking is a myth. When we constantly switch back and forth between tasks (especially between complex tasks that require our active attention), we become less efficient and more likely to make a mistake.
Automated Safety Features
The current automated safety features like cruise control or lane departure warning (among others) were designed to assist drivers and increase their awareness behind the wheel. However, they have a somewhat negative effect on drivers who don’t take the time to fully understand what these features do and why they need them.
As a result, many drivers relax and trust their safety features to kick in and prevent a crash or a more serious accident. However, these features were only designed as assistance to an already alert and active driver and not as the main control of the vehicle.
Right now, everyone is looking forward to self-driving cars that can make decisions based on data received from highly advanced sensors. However, until the technology will be readily available in all vehicles with the proper infrastructure, the human factor will remain involved in the driving process.
This means the driver still needs to stay focused and ready to take control whenever an incident happens. However, the human brain is easily distracted when it’s not engaged in an activity, which tends to lead to distracted drivers in a vehicle on autopilot.
Modern technology brings forth a series of new problems that we must solve before we dive right in. Sadly, many drivers fail to understand this aspect and car manufacturers are not motivated enough to discuss these situations upfront. After all, a vehicle with modern technologies is a lot more appealing than one with just basic driving features.