A new research article published in the Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making argues that there should be minimum driver training standards for partially automated cars. According to the authors, today’s cars are full of new technology that drivers may not understand or know how to respond to. They point out that the research on how drivers interact with automated systems is just beginning.
Training is Essential
The authors make their case by comparing automated safety systems in cars to the advent of automation in airplanes. The technology is designed to save lives, but if pilots are not properly trained on how to use it, the results can be fatal. The recent tragic accidents of two Boeing Max 737 aircrafts demonstrate how safety technology produced an accident no one knew was possible: the anti-stalling feature of the plane malfunctioned, and the pilots did not know how to over-rule the computer system.
Accidents can also happen when drivers do not understand the technology in their cars. Many drivers do not realize that there are different levels of automation available. In surveys, completely autonomous cars were confused with cars that had technology features and 11 percent of drivers mistakenly thought that the car would be able to drive itself while they used a cellphone.
Limits of Technology
All technology has its limits. This can be dangerous when the driver does not realize this and relies too heavily on the safety systems of the car. For instance, not everything may be visible on the display from a backup camera. Adaptive cruise control systems may maintain a prescribed distance from the next car regardless of what is happening on the road. By 2022, all new cars in the U.S. will be equipped with Automatic Emergency Braking, but automatic brakes may not be fast enough in every emergency.
Familiarity Takes Time
The safety features available in today’s cars range from lane keeping systems and adaptive cruise control to automated parking and blind spot alerts. It takes time to learn all the different features that come with a new car model and drivers may think they are familiar with a car because they owned the previous model. Technological updates may make the same car quite different. Additionally, drivers who are renting or borrowing a car may have a hard time adjusting to the technology contained in a different car. Rental car companies do not have the staff available or the time to show each customer the different safety features of each car.
The study makes recommendations for educating drivers so that they have the information they need to drive safely. Without education standards, the authors say that technology designed to prevent accidents may cause them instead.