Technology Gets Better. We Get Worse.
Part of the problem, ironically, is that as safety technology in cars gets better, we, as drivers, may be getting worse. Studies at MIT indicate that increasing automation can make drivers overestimate their safety and feel comfortable indulging in other activities behind the wheel. According to the CDC, approximately nine people die and more than 1,000 are injured each day in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.
One of the worst culprits in distracted driving is multitasking. MIT research scientist Bobbie Seppelt is part of one of the longest-running studies of driver attention. Beginning in 2015, Seppelt and her colleagues outfitted a set of Teslas, Volvos, and Range Rovers with cameras that tracked the driver’s head, eye, and body movements to better understand what might lead to a crash.
Seppelt also found that safe driving technology seems to affect people in two different ways. One group explored the limits of the safety systems, including taking their hands away from the wheel for extended periods. A second group stopped using the driver assistance technology altogether. They distrusted the software so much that they, in essence, declined to take advantage of those safety features.“We’re quite busy when we drive,” said Seppelt, who has seen countless scenes of eating, drinking, grooming, button-pushing and more from drivers who knew they were being filmed. “It’s about 40-60 percent of the time that we’re doing something in addition to operating the vehicle.”