As an increasing number of fleet drivers opt for accessories designed to improve vehicle safety and make their jobs easier, researchers at Brunel University tested adaptive cruise control and an active steering system using experienced and learner motorists.
The cruise control system maintains a set distance from other traffic and active steering can automatically steer for the driver.
Led by Dr Mark Young, researchers claimed that when both systems were used drivers of varying standards could not avoid crashing.
This was because drivers were ‘underloaded’ with too little to do, making them less able to respond to emergency situations, they said.
Dr Young added: ‘It seems that today’s drivers aren’t designed to cope with new automotive technology.
‘Many of the positive automotive technology developments of the last few years are outpacing our human abilities to control the car.
‘It’s essential that drivers are actively involved – advancements in technology need to support the driver, not take over from the driver. Car designers believe that giving drivers less to do improves comfort and convenience when driving.
‘Our research has found that giving drivers too little to do is just as, if not more, dangerous. Automation systems should still engage motorists in the actual business of driving rather than trying to make them redundant.’
Commenting on the research, Peter Rodger, chief examiner of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: ‘This research is a reminder that over the last 50 years car safety technology has improved vastly – but the driver at the wheel hasn’t changed at all.
‘The safest car available on the market today is only as good as the driver in it.’
A fleet executive at one volume carmaker, who asked not to be named, said the sample size was too small to be conclusive.
And a spokesman for Honda, renowned for its technological developments such as its ADAS system incorporating technology to alert drivers if they drift out of lane and also adaptive cruise control, said: ‘Over the last decade, Honda has carried out many hundreds of thousands of miles of testing in all conditions and is totally confident that the ADAS technology will improve safety levels.’