Automakers' response to distracted driving - Kentucky Farm Bureau

Automakers' response to distracted driving

The auto industry has taken notice of distracted driving. Some tools have already been invented to curb the effects, while other technologies are quickly developing from budding ideas to larger-than-life innovations. 

Technology's role in distracted driving blog
Make Kentucky’s roads a safe place to be, and join Kentucky Farm Bureau in driving distraction-free.| Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Today, 97 percent of Americans you pass on the road own a cellphone. And despite knowing the risk, a study done by AT&T shows that about 80 percent of those cellphone owners report using them while driving. Though still underreported, cellphone usage behind the wheel continues to be an on-the-rise issue. 

The auto industry has taken notice. Some tools have already been invented to curb the effects of this rampant roadway issue, while other technologies are quickly developing from budding ideas to larger-than-life innovations.     
Here’s a look at some of the technologies developed to curtail the epidemic of distracted driving:

  • Automatic emergency braking (AEB)
    According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), many drivers involved in rear-end crashes either do not apply their brakes at all or don’t apply them enough.      
    A study by IIHS reported that AEB technology reduced police-reported rear-end crashes by 50 percent. It’s essentially like having another set of eyes on the roadway. Sensors on your car (cameras, radars and lasers) scan the road ahead for obstacles. If an imminent crash is detected, the system alerts the driver and begins automatically braking to reduce the severity of or prevent the collision.     

    A decade ago, AEB was a rare, futuristic feature only found in high-end vehicles. With distracted driving on the rise, this device is well on its way to becoming standard. Many popular automakers have already made AEB a standard feature in a majority of light-duty cars and trucks, and in 2023 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a rule that, if passed, would require AEB on all new passenger cars and light trucks.
  • Lane departure warning (LDW) and lane keep support (LKS)
    Like AEB, LDW can pick up the slack for a distracted driver.  Say you’re reaching into the passenger seat for a bite of that drive-thru cheeseburger you just picked up and temporarily take your eyes off the road... LDW alerts drivers with an audio or visual alert when they unintentionally drift out of a lane without a turn signal on. 

    While LDW leaves the correction up to the driver, LKS goes a step further by taking action. If sensors detect that a car is about to unintentionally move out of its lane, LKS will correct the steering and return the vehicle to its intended path.
  • Eye tracking technology
    If you thought automatically-braking cars were space-age, imagine a world where cars were able to monitor your eyes and tell if you weren’t paying enough attention to the road.

    Well, that technology may not be too far off. While it is still being perfected, some car manufacturers are experimenting with eye-tracking technology that would detect when a driver’s gaze has shifted and send alerts to regain said driver’s attention.

    In March 2019, popular automaker Volvo announced a plan to equip new vehicles with interior-facing cameras designed to monitor a driver's attentiveness by tracking their eye movement. If the cameras were to detect that a driver is distracted by looking at their smartphone or not keeping their hands on the steering wheel, it would raise an alarm. The automaker officially revealed this technology in November 2022 in the Volvo EX90.

    Additionally, General Motors has recently made significant improvements to its semi-autonomous driver-assist system, Super Cruise. The system boasts head tracking software that helps make sure your eyes are on the road, and alerts you when you need to pay more attention or take back control. Super Cruise also utilizes a host of sensors, radars, and cameras to steer, accelerate, and brake automatically. The Super Cruise network currently covers over 400,000 miles, and General Motors is actively working to grow to about 750,000 miles of compatible roadways.

While self-driving cars and innovative gadgets are sure to help our growing compulsion with smartphones, they alone can’t eradicate the problem. Make Kentucky’s roads a safe place to be, and join Kentucky Farm Bureau in driving distraction-free.

>> In Kentucky, there’s so much to live for. Join us in driving distraction-free.
To learn more about distracted driving’s prevalence in the Bluegrass State, click here.