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How All The “Smart” Vehicle Tech Is Creating Stupid Drivers
Drivers with the newest and most advanced vehicles are susceptible to causing a dangerous driving environment. It has been proven that the newest technologies equipped on the latest automobiles are causing drivers to be distracted due to the ease of using these vehicles. This paper is for the purpose of finding representative information proving that advanced new car tech is making drivers more dangerous.
To back the idea that state of the art car technology is hurting roadway safety, automotive magazine articles of real-world instances, studies by automotive agencies and reports from companies focused on improving driver safety were thoroughly analyzed. The information found was nothing short of expected, that technologies designed to let drivers shift their focus and energy away from driving only causes more distracted drivers.
Due to the fact that distracted driving directly relates to unsafe roads and increased accidents, the information found shows that the latest automotive technology makes roads more dangerous.
Countless people across the world have taken a king-sized liking to the widely accepted yet flawed new-age car technology that is advancing more and more each day. On the other hand, there are others who refuse to take advantage of it and prefer to live in the analogue past, reverting to the seemingly obsolete human body to aid them with driving. In some instances both of these parallels have it better off than the other, but there is no doubt that automobile technology has advanced more in the last 25 years than at any other continuous period of time in car history. “All of the biggest technological inventions created by man - the airplane, the automobile, the computer - says little about his intelligence, but speaks volumes about his laziness (Kennedy, Technology Quotes To Inspire).” Just driving around, it is easy to notice how people who drive these new-age machines are by any-sized margin, worse drivers than those who drive slightly older vehicles. Recent advancements in automotive technology are creating an unsafe generation of bad drivers due to ease of operation and a lack of complexity.
It may sound like another “kids these days” gripe that everyone gets tired of hearing from any older generation, but the idea that computerized cars are making things more dangerous is a very real and important topic. Through reports, studies and the aid of common thinking, there are many conclusions that can be drawn from the dangerousness of the everreal upshoot in technological advancements relating to cars. Infotainment, navigation, semi-automation, traction control, obstacle avoidance and backup camera technology are all avenues of potential danger and problems surrounding the everyday vehicle.
Although they are said to be helpful and improve driver safety, infotainment systems in cars have become large and distracting, sometimes more so than smartphones. Sitting just out of a driver’s eyesight, it is easy to get distracted by things like text messages coming up on the screen and needing to weave through menus to connect a passenger’s phone to the bluetooth. For example, a test done by the author, someone unfamiliar to new car technology showed that simply finding directions to a gas station took 30 seconds, and finding a certain call contact took another 15. Both simple tasks, yet they take dangerously long to complete. These screens may also be problematic when the sun shines onto it and reflects into a driver's eyes, or during the night when the brightness impairs a driver’s vision. “‘You might want to watch a movie, or you might want to read a magazine on a big screen. It’s not just infotainment anymore, it’s mirroring of personal devices’” (Fogden, Tech is Making Us Worse Drivers). Writes Stefan Marxeiter, COO of Mobica, a company dedicated to better and safer infotainment systems. He explains that the new age of TV screens on a car dash is simply mirroring our addiction to media of all sorts, meaning that these screens will soon no longer exist for ease of use, but for entertainment. It shouldn't have to be explained that movie-watching, texting and reading while driving is dangerous. Therefore, infotainment systems are responsible for becoming a means of distraction, not practicality.
Satellite navigation has saved everyone at some point from being lost and having to use a map, or worse ask a local where they are, but at what cost to the driver? A BBC Future report explains that when drivers use satellite navigation, they are detaching their brain from having to expand and utilize its internal compass. “Depending solely on digital guides may even make the skill of creating mental maps completely redundant” (Moskvitch, Cars Increasingly Rely on Technology). In other words, the brain is not learning how to understand the geography throughout an area because it is letting the navigation do all the work, in turn making drivers more reliant on their car to direct them. This becomes a real problem when a driver is in a place without service because when they don't know how to create memory of an area it will come back to bite.
Since its birth Tesla has been leading in automotive technology and advancements, and when they introduced their automation feature it only further backed this reputation. Tesla’s autopilot mode is meant to help the driver be less focused on driving and maintaining lanes by letting the car do the work, yet still maintaining safety on the roadway thanks to sensors and programming. Though this feature can be helpful in some circumstances, it is still in its infancy so it has setbacks and flaws. This is because Tesla’s automated driving feature uses the same style of technology as cars with electronic emergency braking systems. When driving behind a vehicle it will lock onto it and follow it at a set distance. If the car it is locked onto moves and presents another in front of it then the vehicle will not lock on because it thinks it is a non-moving obstacle, and the car hits it. This is why the vehicle presents a “Keep Hands On Steering Wheel” message, yet people undermine it and use it as a fully autonomous vehicle (which it is not) and it causes them to get into crashes. This reveals the conclusion that advanced vehicle technology like semi-automation, gets taken for granted by humans and it causes accidents due to a refusal to follow directions when no one is looking.
Adaptive cruise control is a feature included in a plethora of new cars that is meant to help keep drivers at a safe distance from another car while in cruise control, as well as keeping a safe speed. Adaptive cruise control advancements have become problematic as well when it frequently leads to drivers losing attention on the road and their car becoming a traffic-causing obstacle on the freeway. A study done by State Farm shows that more drivers with adaptive cruise control and lane assist features admit to being distracted by their phone or other things than drivers without those smart technologies. “Americans who drive vehicles equipped with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) or Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), both advanced driver assist features, admit to using their smartphones while driving at significantly higher rates than those without the latest tech,” (State Farm, Driving Dumber In Smarter Cars?). In fact, the study shows that drivers that have access to these features engage in distracted behavior while driving about 10-20% more frequently than drivers who don’t. This means that Adaptive Cruise control simply leads drivers to lose interest in driving and give in to their impulse to go on their phone or get distracted by what is around them.
Traction and stability control is meant to keep drivers from losing control of their vehicle and getting in (or causing) a wreck when faced with acute road conditions. Traction control systems will slow wheel speed or lock up the wheels completely, in order to stop the car from spinning out or sliding around the road. Because these features are run by imperfect computers, they can lock the wheels up or keep the wheels from spinning at unnecessary times, like when the vehicle is high-centered. “As the driver attempted to extract the sedan by rocking the vehicle, the front tires were barely turning. This driver didn't understand that traction control can cause and/or exacerbate certain vehicle-disabling situations like the one they were in.”(Noordeloos, Is Technology Making Us Better or Worse Drivers). Stability control is another safety feature on automobiles that is meant to keep the vehicle moving in the right direction, and out of ditches and other obstacles. These features jerk the car around violently, combating human wheel movement. Due to the complexity or the complete lack of an off feature, many drivers have no idea how to capture control of a vehicle when it is sliding or spinning, but in icy or blizzard conditions, turning these features off can be safer than keeping them on. That is, as long as a driver knows how to safely drive in those conditions, unfortunately numerous drivers don’t due to reliance on advanced features.
There is no doubt that backup cameras are beneficial when it comes to seeing below a car’s rear window, however it can be more dangerous than taking advantage of state of the art human eyeballs. The human eye is a spherical shape allowing for a wide, nearly 180° range of view whereas a camera is flat-faced, and many of them (including the ones on cars) do not have nearly the wide view that eyes do. Humans have evolved over time to notice moving objects in our field of vision that were not moving before. “Few drivers realize that when we turn our heads to see what’s behind us, we are spotting things, even if we aren’t specifically looking for them.”(Casner, New Car Technology Is Making Us Worse Drivers). It is oftentimes much harder to notice things moving across a grainy, minimized screen, and sometimes it is just hard enough that it may be the difference between someone hitting a kid on a bicycle, or running over a cat. These two factors are the reason backup cameras are more of a setback when it comes to reversing a vehicle than simply looking behind the vehicle. Ideally drivers would utilize a combination of the two, using the backup camera to notice static obstacles, and using the rear window and mirrors to back into an area.
Car technology will only continue to advance and it is important that this technology changes in ways that do not create increasingly distracted drivers. The overall goal is to have a truly safer driving environment than the one presented in the United States today. The future looks bright for improved safety in infotainment, where many companies like Tesla require using the screen to do something as simple as controlling the A/C, some companies like Mobica, are focusing on creating infotainment screens that make it easier to do simple things. Although many believe that we are living in a time where automated driving may pop up tomorrow, it is still a thing of the future. Director of tech and innovation for Zenzic, Richard Porter, says “‘We’ll certainly see fully-automated vehicles come out in the next five to ten years’” (Fogden, Tech Is Making Us Worse Drivers). about the topic of automation. Zenzic is a UK based company that is focusing on setting a worldwide standard of excellence in automated mobility. A large concern regarding future autonomous vehicles though, is how easy it is for them to lose connection and go into limp mode during acute weather. This could be overwhelmingly problematic in times when a car is the only way to escape these conditions.
It seems that all previously mentioned technologies cause the same problems, and lead to the same conclusions. The integration of things like adaptive cruise control and stability control is said to be for computers to be able to counteract human rationale. Though it is almost as if it was to create an environment where a driver can be detached from driving but still maintain enough safety. Every feature mentioned previously is problematic because of the same reason and comes to the same conclusion, that new-age car “safety” features lead drivers to be immensely more distracted. Because of the increase in distracted driving, it is creating unsafe roads throughout the country.
Casner, Steve. “New Car Technology Is Making Us Worse Drivers. But It Doesn’t Have To.” slate.com, Future Tense, 12 January 2021, slate.com/technology/2021/01/drive-assist-technology-dangerous-psychology.html. Accessed 2 March 2021.
Fogden, Tom. “Tech is Making Us Worse Drivers – But Might Stop Us Driving Altogether.” tech.co, 16 March 2019, tech.co/news/tech-distracted-driving-2019-05. Accessed 5 March 2021.
Noordeloos, Marc. “Is Technology Making Us Better or Worse Drivers?” automobilemag.com, Automobile Magazine, 12 March 2019, automobilemag.com/news/car-automotive-technology-safety-better-worse-drivers/. Accessed 5 March 2021.
Seto, J.L. “Has All the Smart Car Tech Made Us Worse Drivers?” motorbiscuit.com, 16 May 2019, motorbiscuit.com/has-all-the-smart-car-tech-made-us-worse-drivers/. Accessed 5 March 2021.
“Are We Driving Dumber In Smarter Cars?” newsroom.statefarm.com, 16 July 2019, newsroom.statefarm.com/distracted-driving-advanced-tech. Accessed 12 March 2021.
Moskvitch, Katia. “Cars increasingly rely on technology designed to make driving easier and safer. But are these improvements creating less-skilled drivers?” bbc.com, 18 November 2014, bbc.com/future/article/20141119-is-tech-creating-stupid-drivers. Accessed 20 March 2021.
Szczerba, Robert J. “20 Great Technology Quotes To Inspire, Amaze, And Amuse.” forbes.com, 9 February 2015, forbes.com/sites/robertszczerba/2015/02/09/20-great-technology-quotes-to-inspire-amaze-and-amuse/?sh=27606d7616a6. Accessed 23 March 2021.
Tesla. “Infotainment Upgrade.” tesla.com, Tesla, tesla.com/support/infotainment. Accessed 28 March 2021.