Drivers with access to semi-autonomous features such as automatic braking or a lane keeping system say that they're significantly more distracted while driving than drivers without the technology, according to a new study.
In the survey, 64% of drivers with semi-autonomous or in-car technology say they have been occasionally or frequently distracted, while 55% of drivers in cars without the features reported distraction. Even with these results, the high-tech car features make drivers feel safer, the report concludes.
The report from Esurance, "Driving to Distraction," looks at overall distracted driving trends and assesses the impact of modern car technology on distracted driving patterns. Consumers rather than commercial drivers participated in the survey.
Nearly half (46%) of car drivers surveyed with semi-autonomous tech believe the features help enhance their on-road behavior, while 10% believe it hinders their driving.
The survey also found that one out of four drivers who sought out tech in their new vehicles have since deactivated at least one feature.
Overall, drivers with in-car tech tend to be slightly more distracted than those without it—29% admit that the warning sounds themselves (when the car drifts into another lane, for example) can be distracting.
Survey respondents also noted that high-tech features bring with them a plethora of options and buttons—making it tempting for drivers to take their hands off the wheel and their eyes and minds off the road.
The report concludes that features like lane-centering and emergency braking ultimately risk giving drivers a false sense of confidence to look away from the road. What’s more, over-reliance on a feature like obstacle detection — for example, assuming your car will steer around traffic barrels in a construction zone — could end in disaster.
"The idea that consumers might rely too much upon or even abuse these new technologies is a big concern," writes Brandon Schoettle, a project manager at the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute in the survey report. "We are at a point where you can take your hands and feet off the controls for the most advanced systems, but not yet to the point where you can turn your brain off."
The online survey was conducted for a 2-month period with 1,057 vehicle owners in the U.S. Read the full report here.