At a recent driver education conference, a key subject came to the surface throughout the weekend: How/what do we teach our students about new vehicle technology?
My initial response was, “What do you know about the technology?” As a glazed look came across the faces of some instructors, it was apparent that there was indeed a need for more information.
AAA recently evaluated blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning systems to assess their performance in a variety of traffic conditions. The research, conducted with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, found that:
- Blind-spot monitoring systems had difficulty detecting fast-moving vehicles, such as when merging onto a busy highway. Alerts were often provided too late for evasive action.
- Motorcycles were detected by blind-spot monitoring systems 26 percent later than passenger vehicles.
- Road conditions were often a problem for lane-departure warning systems. Worn pavement markers, construction zones, and intersections can cause the lane-departure warning system to lose track of lane location.
- The barrage of alerts and warnings could be confusing. Auditory, visual or haptic responses – or a combination – could be similar to other advanced driver assistance features that deliver the same warnings.
While research results are great, the question is – what do we do with the data? Here are some recommendations for training students on vehicle technology:
- Encourage students to gain experience with the technology: Allow your students to use the available technology in the training vehicle. Even if the technology cannot be used for testing purposes, your students will soon be driving vehicles with such technologies as standard equipment. Show them how the technology can be effective.
- Both systems can help reduce driver workload.
- There are limitations, and systems vary greatly.
- Students should consult the vehicle’s owner’s manual to determine how the systems work before driving the vehicle.
- Emphasize the importance of staying engaged: Alert your students to the limitations of the technology.
- AAA found instances when the blind-spot monitoring system did not provide appropriate warnings or delivered the alarm when the approaching vehicle was only a few feet away.
- Drivers relying on these systems may not have time to maneuver to safety.
The Bottom Line
Engineers are continuously working to improve the design and effectiveness of these systems, increasing their value to motorists. Although these systems introduce some level of automation to the driving experience, they are not a substitute for an engaged driver.
The following video shows one of AAA tests of blind-spot monitoring systems: