Most new cars are now fitted with devices which help the driver such as cruise control, proximity warning alarms and engine management systems. However, it seems that too much automation could increase the risk of an accident rather than help to avoid it.
A recent study by a leading motor insurance firm has found that this is the case. In a scientific study a group of drivers with a wide variety of driving knowledge from learners to experienced drivers were tested for driving proficiency whilst using automated driving systems.
The two specific devices were tested were adaptive cruise control, which maintains a constant distance from the car in front, and systems that can even automatically steer.
Researchers found that using the devices at the same time left drivers bored and under-stimulated, meaning they were less likely to pay attention to the road ahead or able to react in an emergency situation.
When the motor insurance researchers simulated a failure of the cruise control system, around half of the learner drivers were unable to react in time and crashed into cars in front when they braked.
"Advancements in technology need to support the driver, not take over from the driver. If the driver has too little to do, the capacity to respond to unexpected events is dramatically reduced," warned one researcher.
Manufacturers refuted the report's findings, saying that they have completed many thousands of hours of testing to ensure safety.