by: Michael Rose
Adaptive cruise control (“ACC”) is a newer and more advanced vehicle feature. Where manufacturers praise it as a revolutionary safety feature, consumers may depend on it as a comprehensive system of convenience. ACC does not substitute drivers but supplements driving. Drivers failing to appreciate this distinction may transform ACC’s safety function into a safety hazard. The most obvious risk with viewing ACC as a driver substitute is the driver’s over-reliance on the system. This could instigate problems such as lowering driver alertness and welcoming driver distraction. Furthermore, a driver’s lack of ACC system knowledge not only presents dangers with over-reliance but also under-reliance.
Adaptive Cruise Control Dangers
Lowering driver alertness also lowers driver control. A disengaged driver will allow ACC to maintain primary control over the vehicle. This could lead to drivers overreacting to an ACC function (i.e. impulsively swerving when startled by an ACC alert). Or they may underreact to other vehicles that the system does not register. Additionally, lowering driver alertness can exacerbate driver fatigue. Fatigued drivers are not as engaged or stimulated when driving with ACC. The AAA Foundation for Driver Safety found that, annually, 328,000 crashes involve a drowsy driver (roughly 6,400 fatal)– 21% of total crashes nationwide. If a situation arose that called for driver intervention of ACC, a drowsy driver will have a slower response time. That is if they respond at all.
Relying too much on ACC also welcomes driver distraction. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, in 2015 alone, 391,000 people were injured, and 3,477 were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. One of the most common distractors when driving is using cell phones. That is dangerous and illegal in many states. Over-reliance on ACC increases the likelihood of cell phone use and the associated dangers and fines that follow.
Adaptive Cruise Control is Not a Substitute Driver
Drivers lacking ACC system knowledge also present numerous potential dangers. As mentioned above, a misconception of ACC’s overall purpose – a safety feature, not a substitute driver – can create dangers. Being unaware of the system’s limitations can create dangers. These include weather conditions interfering with the system’s ability to sense vehicles. If a person relies on the car to yield to leading vehicles in inclement weather, there is an obvious increase in the chance of collision. Should a driver not expect the system to accelerate aggressively, they might react in an inappropriate manner. That increases the chances of collision.
If the AAC’s dashboard icon is too dull, drivers may not know when the system is on and react inappropriately if they mistakenly believe it is on or off. Not understanding that the system may give false warnings. These can include braking being triggered by reflective white lines on the road. That presents safety concerns for the vehicle’s driver and the drivers of following vehicles. Inappropriate responses to false warnings can result in a collision. Drivers of following vehicles may fail to react to sudden and unexpected stops initiated by the system.
Many potential dangers are associated with ACC knowledge, trust, and complacency. Even if a driver finds the perfect balance, technology is unpredictable and ever-evolving, and humans are even more so.
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