27th September 2016

ADAS are turning some drivers into autonomous humans

Let’s be honest, so many of us are dependent on technology, especially smartphones, and as much as I’m hungry for progress, it’s fair to say that artificial intelligence is replacing human intelligence in certain ways. Handwriting is becoming less neat, the art of letter-writing is fading away, navigating using a map or road atlas is alien to many people and electronic communication dominates, even amongst people in the same office or home.

During the “How the connected car will change the driving experience” segment I presented at the BVRLA Technical and Operational Management Forum in June, I passionately extolled the virtues of advanced driver assistance systems, from lane-keeping assistance, distance-keeping cruise control, crash mitigation and pedestrian airbags to post-collision braking and autonomous emergency braking.

Thatcham Research says that AEB can reduce low-speed crashes by up to 40% so it’s a shame to see from their study last month that only 52% of the UK’s ten best-selling cars have this technology fitted as standard and it’s not even optional on two models. Trak Global’s young and newly-qualified car insurance brand, Carrot, would welcome AEB’s introduction as at least an option on the Vauxhall Corsa, for instance.

With Tesla surging ahead with its electric vehicles and Autopilot systems, Google, Audi, Volvo, Intel and other manufacturers busy developing their own systems and Jaguar’s Sixth Sense concept showing what could be done when physical monitoring of drivers is combined with safety technology, we’ve undeniably got an exciting and much safer future ahead.

Until ADAS is standard on most vehicles, there’s the risk in the meantime, though, that society’s reliance on technology is turning many drivers into autonomous humans, unable to think, act or drive for themselves, delegating safety to computers.

Just because a vehicle is fitted with AEB doesn’t excuse anyone from driving too close to the vehicle in front and expecting their car to deal with the situation. Lane departure warning systems don’t give people the right to just swing out into an adjacent lane thinking they’re in some kind of bubble, in the same way that lane-keeping systems shouldn’t be relied on to steer a vehicle around bends while the driver peers at their smartphone. Parking has become a lost skill, too, which is partly down to most vehicles having parking sensors, reverse cameras and even the ability to self-park.

With ‘driving at work’ penalties having increased under recently-revised legislation, fleets in particular have a duty to ensure that their drivers aren’t relying too heavily on ADAS and losing their own driving skills as a result. After all, an at-work collision isn’t defensible by saying the employee expected AEB to prevent it occurring, for example.

Fleets harnessing the power of telematics, from conventional hardware systems to purely app-based solutions such as Appy Fleet, are able to monitor the behaviour of their drivers and identify any additional training required. AA Drivetech recently identified that morning and evening commutes pose a dangerous time for company car drivers, so if commuting does indeed become classified as ‘at work’ driving activity in the near future, it will hopefully lessen company car drivers’ reliance on ADAS and help them to retain their human driving skills.

Andrew Brown-Allan is Marketing & Propositions Director at Trak Global + Carrot Insurance