Autonomous vehicles are taking much of the control out of the hands of drivers and turning it over to computer chips and algorithms. This is changing the way drivers react to other vehicles and potentially dangerous conditions on the road. The path towards automation is already being paved, but it remains to be seen what the overall effect will be on accident rates and whether or not these new technologies will lead to a host of accidents caused by a whole new set of critical events.
Trust and Reliability Are Crucial
Drivers trust automated features that have a proven track record of reliability. Features such as cruise control and ABS braking systems have a well-established and documented history within the marketplace. These standard features have reduced accidents and improved fuel economy. However, new features such as lane control, adaptive cruise control, and intuitive pedestrian detection are newer features which have the capability of taking control of the vehicle. Acceptance of these features and their capabilities will require a long-term history of proven effectiveness which has yet to be established.
“Improving” the Driving Experience
Automobile manufacturers are marketing autonomous features as “improving” the driving experience. In reality, it’s more appropriate to say that they are changing it by using artificial intelligence to make critical decisions on behalf of the driver. As time passes, there is a very real risk that critical driving skills will be lost. In the interim, drivers who purchase vehicles with automated features will have to retrain their brains and alter the way they control their vehicle as it cruises down the road. Drivers who are overly reliant on their automated systems may also experience a significant loss of situational awareness which can increase the risk of otherwise preventable accidents.
The Risk of the Wrong Reaction
Technology is not flawless. Computer chips fail, circuits break, and algorithms can derive the wrong solution. Automobile accidents occur when this happens and there are already numerous examples that demonstrate the dangers automated technology and self-driving vehicles pose. Moreover, when the autonomous systems fail, it reduces the amount of time that a driver has to react in order to avoid a collision with another vehicle, pedestrian, or fixed object.