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Study raises concerns about autonomous vehicle safety systems

Research suggests that sophisticated driver assistance technology could reduce road deaths by up to 30 percent and prevent 40 percent of all crashes, but a study released by AAA reveals that theses safety gains may come at a cost. The organization's Foundation for Traffic Safety polled 1,200 drivers who bought 2016 or 2017 model cars or SUVs equipped with features like adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking systems. They found that motorists in New Mexico and around the country were more likely to act recklessly while behind the wheel because they believe these features are more capable than they actually are.

AAA researchers say that they found a worrying lack of awareness among drivers about the limitations of accident avoidance systems. Even the latest semi-autonomous vehicle technology requires drivers to remain alert and vigilant at all times, but almost a third of the poll's respondents told researchers that they sometimes take their focus off driving and attend to other tasks while their adaptive cruise control systems are in use.

About eight out of 10 of the motorists polled did not know that blind-spot monitoring systems cannot always be relied upon to detect fast-approaching vehicles, and 40 percent of them were unaware that not all forward-collision prevention systems feature automatic emergency braking capabilities. The researchers say that these findings raise questions about the future rollout of semi-autonomous vehicles in the United States.

The data used by driver assistance systems can provide crucial clues to accident investigators and is often stored on black box-type devices. Experienced personal injury attorneys may seek to have the vehicles involved in car crashes inspected so that this information can be recovered. This electronic evidence could help to establish liability in court by revealing that motorists were exceeding posted speed limits or driving negligently at the time.

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