Safe Use of New Vehicle Tech Takes Training, Not Trial and Error

New AAA research shows exposure alone isn’t enough to understand system limitations

BOISE – As driving assistance technology becomes more widely available in new vehicles, AAA warns that knowledge gaps can lead to dangerous assumptions about how the system will perform.  According to new research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers who received a brief, but comprehensive training session significantly outperformed those were left to learn about the technology on their own.

AAA looked at driver understanding of adaptive cruise control (ACC), a system that assists with acceleration and braking to maintain a driver-selected gap with the car in front, through the first six months of new vehicle ownership.  During a simulated drive at the end of the study, those who learned by experience alone were more likely to wait for the system to act outside of its intended use, resulting in delayed reaction time that may have put lives at risk.

“Self-taught drivers were also more likely to mistakenly believe that the ACC technology would react appropriately to stationary objects like construction cones, assist with steering to keep the vehicle in its lane, and consistently operate in all weather conditions,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde.  “Better training can help set realistic expectations, and in turn, prevent overreliance on a system that is specifically designed to assist an engaged human driver.”

Of particular concern was a group of over-confident drivers who failed to grasp ACC yet were highly self-assured in their knowledge.  AAA urges vehicle manufacturers to clearly communicate the limitations of driver assistance systems in a variety of ways to address different learning styles.

“A lot can happen at freeway speeds, and we don’t want drivers to learn the hard way that with new technology, ‘self-taught’ isn’t always the best way to go,” Conde said.

When it comes to advanced vehicle systems, AAA recommends the acronym PLAN:

  • Understand the purpose of the technology through hands-on training at the dealership
  • Understand the limitations of the technology by avoiding assumptions of what it can and cannot do
  • Allow time for practice to learn how the technology works under real driving conditions
  • Never rely on it to the point where you aren’t prepared to immediately take over