Driver-assist features, such as blind-spot monitoring and autonomous emergency braking, are designed to improve safety, but they may be able to do more than that, Ford claims. The automaker recently conducted a study on driver-assist tech’s impact on back-seat drivers, and found that the tech features were a pretty effective way of getting them to shut up.
In the Ford-sanctioned study, 68 percent of respondents said they believed driver-assist tech would reduce back-seat driving behavior. Respondents said their confidence in the technology would reduce their perceived need to give their input to drivers, according to Ford.
For the study, Ford brought in Dr. Jess Carbino, a sociologist best known for working with the dating apps Tinder and Bumble. Carbino echoed the opinions of the study respondents, saying that driver-assist tech could instill more confidence in passengers and make them less likely to engage in back-seat driving behavior.
Ford launched a package of driver-assist features, called Co-Pilot360, for most of its models in 2018. On the 2020 Ford Explorer, for example, Co-Pilot360 includes autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane keep assist, and automatic high beams, with adaptive cruise control available as an optional extra. Other automakers, including Honda, Nissan, and Toyota, offer their own branded suites of driver-assist features. Honda and Toyota also make adaptive cruise control standard on a wider range of models than Ford.
Tech’s ability to instill confidence in drivers and passengers can be great for peace of mind, but it can be a safety issue in its own right. These features serve as a backup, and can’t replace an attentive human driver. But not all carbuyers realize that. Recent studies indicate that drivers may put too much faith in driver-assist systems, or even confuse those systems with fully autonomous driving (to be clear, no car on sale today can drive itself). The different brand names automakers use for similar features can also add confusion, which has led AAA to call for a standardized naming system.
The rise of self-driving cars could eliminate bac-kseat driving once and for all. A machine isn’t going to respond if you yell at it for following a car too closely, after all. Ford plans to begin producing self-driving cars for ridesharing and delivery services in 2021, but it may still be a while before the technology becomes mainstream. So don’t expect back-seat drivers to go away anytime soon.
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