Research In Action

Research In Action

perceptions of autonomous vehicles
Perceptions of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and New Driver Safety

With motor vehicle crashes continuing to be the leading cause of death for teens in the US, the increasing sophistication of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) would seem to be a welcome development for new drivers and their families. But, a recent study funded by the Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies (CChIPS) I conducted with colleagues Chloe Hannan, Aimee J. Palumbo, PhD, MPH, Megan C. Fisher Thiel, MPH, and Eve Weiss, MS found that many teens and their parents are skeptical of the potential positive impact of ADAS on new driver safety.

Our findings, recently published in Traffic Injury Prevention and presented at the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine (AAAM)’s 62nd Annual Conference in Nashville, shed light on this technology’s acceptance and use by young drivers and their families.

ADAS provide drivers with essential information or the automation of certain driving-related tasks to improve vehicle safety. Self-driving vehicles are now being road tested; however, driver assistance systems, such as GPS navigation and cruise control, have been in use for some time and will continue to be used for decades to come, while human-driven vehicles exist on our roadways.

More recent ADAS developments include automatic parking systems, blind spot detection sensors, and collision avoidance systems. ADAS can also help compensate for errors that inexperienced teens tend to make behind the wheel, which stem from poor situational awareness and uncertainty over how to respond to a hazard.

What Parents and Teens Think About ADAS

We developed a national survey of 1,000 teens and 1,000 parents based on previous focus group research on safety technology and teen drivers to examine their perceptions of ADAS in order to identify and overcome possible barriers to ADAS use. We found that survey participants generally recognized that ADAS can help improve safety and reduce accidents but do not entirely trust the relatively new technology:

  • Teens are concerned that, as an emerging technology, ADAS has the potential to malfunction. In fact, many teen drivers indicated they trust their own driving abilities over this new vehicle technology.
  • Teens believe ADAS should only be used to supplement traditional driving instruction; relying on the technology too much could distract young drivers or lead to increased risky driving behaviors.
  • Parents are concerned about their teen drivers becoming overly reliant on ADAS and therefore not developing their driving skills. But, they do see the technology as beneficial once the initial learning phase is over.
  • Parents are worried that insurance companies would use ADAS to keep track of their teen drivers’ data.
  • Both teens and parents believe that ADAS could be vulnerable to hackers.

Clearly, parental attitudes toward ADAS are key to their teens’ acceptance and use of the technology. To fully realize the benefits of ADAS, families must:

  • understand how ADAS can improve teen driver safety
  • be receptive to the technology’s warnings and corrections
  • be willing to pay for and utilize ADAS

We plan to conduct additional surveys to see how parent and teen perceptions may differ among various demographic and social groups. Results from these surveys will then be shared with ADAS manufacturers to help optimize the technology and to develop educational materials that resonate with families about the benefits of ADAS for teen drivers.