The Brain's On Cruise Control, Too

from the i-can't-drive-55 dept

For some time, but with mixed success, auto makers have been trying to add new features to cars like adaptive cruise control, which slows a car down if it gets too close to the one ahead of it, or systems that alert a driver when they wander out of their lane. But while these features are touted as making cars safer, could they be having the opposite effect by making drivers more lazy? The thought is that drivers will simply use automated systems as a crutch, and count on them to pay attention to the road, freeing the driver up to play with the radio, put on makeup or eat a burrito. While it may sound unrealistic, it’s pretty believable, judging by how blindly some people will trust their GPS units. But like laws banning cell-phone use by drivers, these systems really create the appearance of safety without actually doing anything to make people better drivers.

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Comments on “The Brain's On Cruise Control, Too”

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s says:

Cruise Control

Considering some people already took it upon themselves to assume that cruise control meant ‘car will drive itself’ and ended up crashing into highway dividers, other cars, trees, etc…, I agree completely.

Then of course they turned around and sued the car maker for not clearly stating cruise control != automated driving.

MissingFrame (user link) says:

Outlaw automatic transmissions!

The more control you have over the car, the more you learn about how it works by necessity or practice. I would gladly outlaw automatic transmissions, cruise control, hell, even electric starters! But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

This goes for all devices, the more automatic they are, the less people know or care how they work, and the less they pay attention. But it keeps us engineers employed!

Forgie says:

Seriously Though

It’s hard for me to believe that someone with improved cruise control wouldn’t pay a bit of attention if they notice their car continuing to accelerate into the guy in front of them. Hell, some people don’t even like cruise control because of a worry that they won’t be able to regain control quickly enough. I think that those who use cruise control already would be fine. It might encourage usage of other gagdets, but guess what, the moron who takes it too far is the one who is liable, why punish everyone by holding back on new technology? How about we make people accountable for what they do instead.

Mark says:

Bad safety measures! Bad!

I find it extremely unlikely that you’re going to force bad drivers to be good by removing safety measures from their cars. The same logic would blame the handgun safeties when dumbass gun owners shoot themselves in the face. Should those plastic covers be removed from circular saws to force carpenters to use them carefully? Or maybe smoke detectors should be disconnected so that we’re all more careful to check for fire hazards?

Don’t blame the technology for the moron who manages to circumvent it. Odds are, the same guy who — Homer Simpson-like — believes that his car will drive for him would have been an equal dumbass without those features, only in different ways. In a world where I see people taking notes on their PDAs while driving at highway speeds, I welcome every innovation that takes more of the responsibility to drive out of their hands. They’ll be just as stupid, but maybe I’ll be less likely to die as a result.

Margot says:

Re: Bad safety measures! Bad!

Excellent point, Mark! Adding safety measures INCREASES safety–what a crazy idea! Making things safer does not necessarily mean that more stupid and/or lazy people will use a product, it just means that when they DO use it, it will be safer in their hands.

Yes, some people may come to rely on it more than they should, but as others have noted, these people would have been bad drivers anyway. And should we prevent driving from being safer because the safety measures don’t try to “teach bad drivers a lesson”? It is not the intent of safety measures to improve the skill of individuals using a product, it is intended to make a product safer, regardless of who is using it.

I say, bring on whatever technology makes driving safer for us all! 🙂

Tom says:


This technology is frankly AMAZING for elderly and people who suffer minor handicaps.

In fact it should be required that every slick-ass beamer sporting the 20 inch rims and every doohickey piece of junk you can dumb your car up with be required to sport a big blue HANDICAP sticker on the back. Or maybe you could pimp it out with a gold plated handicap ornament. bling!

Why not? I mean dont you want to know the guy in front of you is too busy getting road head to check his rear-view while you still gotta kick it old school pocket pool inbetween shifting?

Tom aka white devil


freakengine says:

Driving in Our Society

Driving has become a necessity in most places in the US. Sure, there are exceptions, but most of us live in places where, if you wanna live, you gotta drive. Problem is, some people just plain suck at it. Why not make driving safer for those of us who do it well by adding safety measures for those who aren’t very good at it?

Mark says:

It wouldn’t hurt to have sensors monitoring following distance, lane alignment, etc. However, rather than having the car correct it, the driver should. How? By having the digitally reproduced voice of Fran Descher, at a suitably high sound-pressure level, hollering at you “Hey, bigboy! It’d help alot if that big honkin’ semi wasn’t about to kill us all!”…or something along those lines

Anonymous Coward says:

Well the way I see it you cant get rid of electric starters and automatic transmission. Older people wouldnt be able to drive then (not that they should be driving now but still.)and it would make the simple task of driving to work much harder for those with back problems and those who are not good at using a clutch and stickshift

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