More automation in cars ‘may make drivers dangerously lazy’

Written by Ellie

An excessive reliance on in-car gadgetry could lead to more accidents as drivers get complacent about safety, IAM Roadsmart has warned.

The charity backs the conclusions of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee report Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The future?, which lists a number of recommendations for the government to ensure the development of autonomous vehicles can take place safely.

According to the report, there is a danger that the move towards driverless cars could make motorists “complacent and overly reliant on technology,” with a particular concern being that they would be slow to react in emergency situations.

These fears about drive competence need to be understood, the report said. It recommended that the government should be “commissioning and encouraging research studying behavioural questions” relating to how motorists will react as the cars they drive become increasingly automated.

Among the other concerns was the suggestion that driverless cars could be subject to hacking, meaning they could become a danger to other road users and pedestrians unless someone in the vehicle can take over the controls.

Director of policy and research at IAM Roadsmart Neil Greig said: “When it comes to driverless cars, IAM RoadSmart members are not keen to give up full control and are also very concerned about hacking, so we welcome the House of Lords Technology Committee’s view that cyber-security is an important issue.”

The warnings may counterbalance any excessive optimism that driverless cars could be a road safety panacea, by using machines to carry out driving functions and thus prevent accidents caused by a loss of concentration or irresponsible actions such as competitive driving or driving while using a phone, or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

UK government figures published a year ago showed that in the year to March 2016, the most recent for which data is available, 1,780 people were killed in road accidents in Britain. This figure was unchanged from the previous year despite a 1.8 per cent rise in traffic volumes.

Natalie Brinkley, brand manager at Fuel Card Services, adds: “Driver aids such as lane departure warnings help make the roads safer, but there is obviously some way to go before vehicles on our roads are ready to become fully automated.”

Posted on 27th March 2017

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