Automated Cars Reduce Driver’s Alertness Levels

Automated Cars Reduce Driver’s Alertness Levels

New study suggests people tend to get complacent when behind the wheel of a car with automated driving features

Automation is the rage right now, and rightly so, as it will definitely be a key element in moving technology forwards. Automation in cars however, is a much debated topic. Tesla pioneered the automated driving technology, which was not completely rid of flaws, and even resulted in a couple of fatal accidents. They claim they have ironed out the issues by now, and a handful of other companies have joined them in the Electric Vehicle’s race. However, the masses still remain skeptical about the concept as of now, and a recent study suggests their skepticism is not misplaced.

A group of psychologists from the Rice University and the Texas Tech University, conducted a study on how a driver responds to the autonomous driving technology currently available. They deduced that the ‘Auto-Pilot’ feature on these cars brings forth a sense of complacency among the drivers. A test group of 60 licensed drivers were put in a simulated automated driving experience. They were given prior information about the obstacles the car would not be able to negotiate on its own. If not for the obstacles mentioned, the drivers were instructed to keep their hands of the wheel and feet off the pedals.

The study conclusively detailed how behavioral patterns changed as the subjects spent greater amounts of time in the simulator. At first most subjects were highly alert, displaying an accuracy of 88%. However, as they got used to the automated driving methods, they also got used to the cars doing most of the work. By the end of the simulation, driver accuracy had dropped to a low of 7%, and an average of 21%.

“The bottom line is, until automated driving systems are completely reliable and can respond in all situations, the driver must stay alert and be prepared to take over,” said Eric Greenlee, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Texas Tech and the study’s lead author.