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Could automated driving features be making drivers inattentive?

More vehicles are being produced every year with automated emergency braking (AEB) systems. Combined with forward collision warning (FCW) systems, the purpose of these automated innovations is to reduce the number of collisions -- and decrease the severity of those that do occur.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that front-to-rear collisions dropped 43% and injuries dropped 64% when FCW and AEB systems are involved.

Here's the problem with these automated systems: They may be creating a whole new type of distracted drivers. FCW systems provide an alert that warns the driver that a collision is about to occur, and the AEB system kicks in if the driver doesn't respond quickly enough.

While statistically effective, researchers are finding that the increasing automation of vehicles could be creating other problems. In specific, they could be making some drivers increasingly inattentive. Tesla has been known for its "Level 2" automated vehicles. However, Audi, Volvo, Nissan and Cadillac also have gotten into the partial automation game.

Partial automation may be great for short trips. On longer drives, however, people tend to experience something known as passive fatigue. The fact that drivers don't need to make constant decisions may cause their minds to wander -- and some even fall asleep.

The other problem is that drivers get bored if they're not required to do much thinking for themselves. That encourages the kind of distracted driving that already causes problems -- like playing with cellphones or looking something up on the internet. Either way, drivers may not be prepared to take control of their vehicle back in an emergency.

Automated driving technology can't do the entire job on its own. You can still end up in a serious accident. It may even be worse if your forward collision warning fails for some reason, and your AEB system never goes off.

Anyone involved in a car accident should consider finding out more about their legal rights.

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