It seems like we may have reached a chicken and an egg situation when it comes to distracted driving and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). I’ve written about it over at autoTRADER.ca, but want to provide a few of my thoughts that wouldn’t have had a home in that article.
For starters, many of my colleagues in the automotive industry, as well as automotive enthusiasts seem to loathe driver’s assistance features. “I know how to drive, and don’t need a robot to do it for me!” they exclaim. I too, love the serenity of driving a basic car without the nags or worries from a driver’s assistance system suggesting I might get into a catastrophic accident every once in a while.
But these systems, which include adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance weren’t developed for enthusiasts, they were developed to help everyday drivers who may feel nervous or lose focus on their regular commute. Nevermind better driver’s education, the solution now is putting more technology into new cars to augment the pilot’s deficiencies.
Even with better driver education, the call to distraction seems to be too strong. Phones buzz and light up with every notification, tweet, email or message, asking for your eyes to glance over to your screen and possibly provide a few more data-points for Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft or Facebook to sell to advertisers.
And maybe we really want to pick up that phone more than we want to actively drive. Sitting in a car is like being in an isolated cocoon. We can listen to our own music and podcasts as loudly as we want without any of that judgement. We sing along or think deeply like we’re in a shower. It’s isolating in the best of ways sometimes, but also the worst as we seek to stay in touch with our friends or workplace. Smartphone augmented infotainment systems like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay help you manage your phone from your car, even with helpful voice commands (shameless plug for my Android Auto and Apple CarPlay Cheat Sheet here) but sometimes that’s not enough.
So, smartphones and unfocused drivers made cabins more distracting than ever, while automakers worked on making vehicles safer, including these driver’s assistance features. The outcome is… more distracted and unengaged drivers.
Especially as ADAS systems get more advanced and reliable, drivers are putting far more faith in them than they should, taking their eyes or hands off the road for even longer than when they didn’t have these systems to help them.
So we’re back to square one. This time the response is fully autonomous driving, which seems like an impossible end-goal, so long as manual and autonomous vehicles share space, but that’s a story for another day. For now, it feels like ADAS is just a stepping stone to fully autonomous cars, and perhaps even enabling drivers to become unengaged and distracted, furthering the need for fully self-driving vehicles or spaces.
Be sure to read my feature on how Advanced Driver Assistance Tech Could Be to Blame for Distracted Drivers at autoTRADER.ca.