In case you missed our post about the new car safety features, we’ll review them here as we explore the main question. As it turns out, these new features will likely not lower auto insurance rates at all, and while automobiles are becoming more and more automated, there is much resistance to shifting liability on the manufacturer as opposed to the driver.
After a driver shifts into reverse, the camera activates to display what’s behind. Now, if the technology malfunctions and a driver backs into something, the responsibility of looking where you are going is still on the driver. It doesn’t matter if the tech isn’t working…you have to look behind your car anyway.
Adaptive cruise control:
In addition to maintaining a cruising speed, these systems can automatically slow or accelerate the car to maintain a constant distance behind the vehicle in front. Regardless of what the tech is supposed to do, the driver is responsible for being aware of the road, especially the location of other vehicles in relation to his/her own.
If the tech stops working, the driver needs to be attentive enough to take over, UNLESS the malfunction results in sudden braking or acceleration that the driver is unable to compensate for. The manufacturer should be liable in this case.
Blind spot monitoring:
Sensors on the sides or rear detect vehicles in the vehicle’s blind spot, and a warning signal, usually yellow or red, flashes in the side mirrors. This one can be trickier, but the general principle applies. Before such monitoring was incorporated into the safety features, the driver had to make sure to turn his/her head without relying on sideview mirrors.
Lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist:
Cameras under the car read the painted lines on the road. If the car starts to drift or swerve, a light flashes or a warning sounds. Flipping on the turn signal overrides the system. Lane-keeping assist automatically turns the steering wheel to bring the car back into its lane. A driver needs to be attentive enough to stay in the lane, plain and simple, unless he/she is signaling to change lanes.
Here is where the liability should be with the manufacturer…a malfunction of lane-keeping assist. If the steering wheel is automatically turned in the wrong direction, or even too far in the right direction, the results could be disastrous. The question here is whether or not a driver’s hands on the wheel have the strength or leverage to counteract an automatic wheel turn.
Forward collision warning or mitigation:
Using sensors and cameras, this warns drivers with a flashing light or audible alert of an impending front-end collision. The idea is to get the driver to brake earlier to prevent the crash or lessen its severity. Some systems do more than warn, actually applying the brake if the driver doesn’t act quickly enough.
This feature is particularly useful, but does not preclude a driver from following at a safe distance. If a driver is tailgating someone and this safety feature does not brake in time, the driver cannot then blame the technology for the collision.
As a general rule, these safety features are supposed to be reliable, but not relied upon. Here, we’ve looked at a few features and have determined when the onus of liability should lie with the driver and when it should lie with the manufacturer. Technology may complicate issues of liability but it is important to remember that there is no excuse for unsafe driving when the action is in the driver’s control, regardless of tech.