DeAnn Owens
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Drivers Lose Focus with Partial Automation Tech

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Distracted Driving

Once drivers get used to partial automation tech, they lose focus on the road and on their responsibilities behind the wheel. According to research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab, drivers at first maintained their usual driving habits when the vehicle featured any level of partial automation. But, after a month, drivers involved in the study felt comfortable enough with the tech to “let their focus slip or take their hands off the wheel when using automation,” the IIHS reports.


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SAE International classifies automation tech into five levels. Level 0 signifies no automation while level five is fully self-driving. According to IIHS, the tech that assists a driver with one driving task falls into Level 1. Level 2 means automation tech help with two driving tasks.

“Level 2 is the highest level of automation available in production vehicles today,” reports the IIHS.

Although current automation tech is supposed to make driving easier, it isn’t supposed to allow drivers to completely check out during driving by taking their eyes off the road or engaging in other unsafe behavior.

IIHS is concerned about how partial automation tech is being used and how it should be improved to make drivers stay focused. They released their recommendations, which include changing the tech to include active driver engagement and improve the implementation, in March.


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“This study supports our call for more robust ways of ensuring the driver is looking at the road and ready to take the wheel when using Level 2 systems,” according to says IIHS Senior Research Scientist Ian Reagan, the lead author of the study. “It shows some drivers may be getting lulled into a false sense of security over time.”