Like smartphones, self-driving tech may prove problematic for road safety

self driving technology smartphones danger texting while
victorpr/123RF
Smartphones and safety just don’t mix. Certainly not on the road. Just ask car insurers who have found that drivers today are more distracted than ever because of their mobile devices, which has resulted in costs associated with crashes growing faster than premium increases. As the Wall Street Journal reports, “America’s drivers are becoming more dangerous by the day. That is pushing auto-insurance rates higher as insurers struggle to keep up.” And things might get worse as autonomous technology allows us to take our hands off the wheel even more often.

Although self-driving technology has long hung its hat on claims of being safer than human drivers, the MIT Technology Review is a bit skeptical, especially considering the history already laid forth by the advent of smartphones. The problem isn’t the car’s autonomy, but rather our increased reliance on this sort of technology, coupled with our growing distraction. Back in September, the Review noted, “If the driver is distracted and the autonomous system does not work properly, or if the human places too much confidence in the abilities of the driver aid and ignores the warnings and the road, things can go wrong.”

Most of today’s self-driving systems are not yet fully autonomous. Tesla’s Autopilot, for example, only works part of the time, and still depends on humans to take control when the machine falls short. But as humans spend more and more time behind the wheel otherwise occupied (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted an 8.8 percent increase in fatalities as a result of distracted driving), they may not be taking control in due time. There’s already precedent for this kind of tragedy — just look at last year’s fatal Tesla Autopilot crash.

As a result, some car experts are suggesting that the answer lies in completely autonomous systems, thereby avoiding the risk of human error altogether. Google has long stood behind this position, and last week, Ford joined the tech company in this belief after finding that engineers were falling asleep behind the wheel of self-driving cars.

Of course, we’ve still a ways to go before we realize this advanced technology, so in the meantime, keep your eyes on the road and your hands off your smartphone.

Product Review

The 2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country is a do-it-all Swedish army knife

Volvo laced up its smallest station wagon in hiking clothes to create the V60 Cross Country. It's a lifted, all-wheel drive wagon that laughs at icy roads while coddling its occupants. We travel to Sweden to try it out.
Smart Home

Ford’s ingenious bed for couples keeps mattress hogs in their own half

Drawing on its driverless-car technology, Ford has created a smart bed for couples that uses sensors and a conveyor belt to prevent either occupant from straying onto the other half of the mattress while they doze.
Product Review

Bigger battery and folding top add appeal, but BMW’s i8 remains ultra-niche

Want a high-performance vehicle that's more than just a frightening driving experience? Desire the look and feel of a sports car with the road manners of a luxury commuter? The BMW i8 is for you.
Cars

Model X owner claims confused Autopilot causes crash; Tesla rejects blame

The driver of a Tesla Model X told New Jersey police he veered off the road and crashed after the Autopilot system malfunctioned. He wasn't hurt or charged, but the crossover sustained significant damage. Tesla denies the claims.
Cars

Report: Amazon and General Motors may invest in electric pickup company Rivian

General Motors and Amazon may invest between $1 billion to $2 billion for minority stakes in U.S. startup Rivian, an all-electric truck company, Reuters reports. Rivian introduced the R1T pickup at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto show.
Cars

Ford F-150 recall: Fault could cause vehicle to downshift into first gear

Ford is recalling 1.48 million F-150 vehicles over a potential fault that could cause it to suddenly downshift into first gear. The automaker said it's currently aware of five accidents related to the issue.
Cars

Volkswagen’s hot-rodded T-Roc R is ready to shred its tires to confetti

Volkswagen released a teaser sketch to preview a hot-rodded SUV named T-Roc R. Insiders suggest it will be closely related to the mighty Golf R, meaning it will pack a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at about 300…
Cars

Honda’s Urban EV is shaping up to be a high-tech, high-style electric city car

Honda will travel to the 2019 Geneva Auto Show to unveil a close-to-production prototype that previews an adorable, city-friendly electric car. The Urban EV will offer about 155 miles of range, and its interior is a tech lover's dream come…
Cars

Audi’s Geneva-bound Q4 E-Tron concept will give us a glimpse of the future

Audi has released a trio of teaser sketches to preview the Q4 E-Tron concept. Scheduled to make its debut at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show, the design study takes the form of an electric SUV with a muscular design and a tech-filled interior.
Cars

Tesla’s Dog Mode lets good Samaritans know that Fido’s A-OK

Tesla's latest over-the-air software update adds two features called Sentry Mode and Dog Mode. Sentry Mode records footage and alerts the owner if someone breaks in, while Dog Mode runs the A/C so owners can safely keep their dogs in their…
Cars

Rock out in the carpool lane with Singing Machine’s Carpool Karaoke microphone

Carpool Karaoke fans can count down the days till summer. That's when Singing Machine's Carpool Karaoke microphone will be available. Connect the Carpool Karaoke Mic to your car radio to make your next road trip a mobile karaoke party.
Cars

Bentley Bentayga Speed surpasses Lamborghini Urus as world’s fastest SUV

The Bentley Bentayga Speed has wrested the title of world's fastest SUV from its cousin, the Lamborghini Urus. But the Bentley is just 1 mph faster than the Lamborghini. It requires 626 horsepower to achieve that top speed.
Emerging Tech

With CabinSense, cars will soon know who’s riding in them and respond accordingly

What if your car could know who's riding in it and customize the entertainment and safety options accordingly? That’s what's promised by the new CabinSense in-car Occupancy Monitoring System.
Outdoors

General Motors cycles into a new market with its first-ever ebikes

When General Motors launched a public campaign last year to name its new ebike brand, many wondered if Bikey McBikeface might win out. But it didn't. Instead, it's called Arīv, and the two bikes are up for pre-order this week.