A new survey from State Farm finds early autonomous technology in cars may inadvertently create more distracted drivers by lulling them into a false sense of security.
Drivers who use adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist technology are more likely to also text, use apps, and even video chat on their phones while behind the wheel, the survey found. For example, 42% of drivers using lane-keeping assist said they “frequently” or “sometimes” also video chat while driving, compared to 20% who engaged in the risky behavior without the advanced technology.
“Innovations such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist are designed to make our roadways safer,” said Laurel Straub, State Farm assistant vice president for enterprise research. “These systems are meant to assist drivers, not replace them.”
Lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control are early steps toward autonomous, or self-driving, cars. The highest level of automation available on the consumer market today is Level Two, or partial automation, which still requires a driver’s attention at all time. Level Five—in which the vehicle does everything and a driver could be asleep—is still years and years away.
As self-driving technology becomes more commonplace, drivers have some responsibility to know its limits, Straub said on WGLT’s Sound Ideas.
“It’s really, really important to understand what their vehicle is capable of—and what it’s not capable of,” she said.
State Farm has been doing its distracted-driving survey for several years. The data shows it’s harder and harder for people to break their phone habits while behind the wheel, Straub said.
Generally, she said younger drivers report distracted behaviors more often—around 47% of 18 to 29-year-olds. But nearly 25% of drivers over age 45 reported they’re willing to read or send text messages while driving.
“So it’s not just something we see with teenagers behind the wheel with the phones in front of their faces,” Straub said.
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