Can Drivers Overly Rely on Driver Assistance Tech?

A driver uses a parking assist system to parallel park. Photo courtesy of IIHS.*

Some safety advocates worry that over-dependence on advanced driver assistance technologies may have unwanted consequences for those motorists who let their guard down: diminishing focus and driving skills. Recent researchon how drivers interact with parking assist systems raises some of these concerns, specifically about driver inattention.

Researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the MIT AgeLab and New England University Transportation Center studied volunteer drivers while they operated a system that helps identify a parking spot and uses automated steering to maneuver into the space. The 31 volunteer drivers each parallel parked a 2010 Lincoln MKS, which was equipped with Active Park Assist, into a space between two inflatable dummy cars. During the experiment, drivers parked the car both with and without Active Park Assist in use.

“When using the automation, drivers spent more time looking at the dashboard and less time looking at the parking spot or at the road in front of or behind them,” an IIHS summary of the study noted. “This was even true when the system was searching for a parking spot but steering wasn’t automated.”

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