Cumberland Times-News

Columns

May 7, 2014

Not so fast

Driverless driving still has plenty of limitations

Even though cars programmed by Google to drive themselves are making progress navigating city streets and all the challenges that go with it, the technology still has far to go.

According to The Associated Press, automotive analysts say the technology probably won’t be ready for the public until the year 2025.

Google’s autopiloted cars already can take on the freeways and are able to handle in-town driving situations they couldn’t have managed even a year ago — as long as a human driver is ready to take over, if need be.

AAA says the safety enhancements already available in new cars can reduce collisions, improve traffic flow and enhance driver convenience, but they have limitations.

For one thing, AAA says, multi-tasking drivers can be caught off-guard by relying too heavily on them. Besides, drivers shouldn’t be multi-tasking in the first place. Their concentration should be devoted entirely to what they’re doing behind the wheel.

Tests conducted by AAA showed that adaptive cruise control did a good job maintaining a specified distance when following slower-moving vehicles on the highway, but autonomous braking systems didn’t always recognize obstacles like motorcycles, stopped cars or traffic cones to provide a warning signal or engage the brakes to stop the vehicle.

AAA said there also are indications that motorists don’t fully read the manual that comes with these automated systems and may rely more on what they see in television commercials.

Before relying on the new technology, AAA recommends that motorists become fully familiar with it — and that includes reading the owner’s manual.

Whether they have the advanced technology or not, the best advice for motorists is that they should understand exactly how their vehicles operate and remain alert and engaged to driving them.

The bottom line is this: The driver is still the most important part of the car.

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