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Testing the Latest Auto Technology

New advances are making our vehicles run more efficiently, with lower emissions and greater gas mileage than ever before. Other technologies are aimed at making driving safer. But do they?

That's the question the Automotive Research Center (ARC) of the Automobile Club of Southern California has been studying in recent years. While it found that some high-tech features are useful to AAA members, others might give drivers a false sense of security. For example, ARC evaluated blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning systems to test their effectiveness. The key takeaway from these studies is that even advanced safety features have limits.

While both systems performed well in various situations, ARC's evaluations uncovered scenarios where they failed to perform as expected. Blind-spot monitoring systems that ARC studied were able to sense an approaching vehicle, but the distance at which they detected it varied. In some cases, the systems missed the approaching vehicle entirely or the alert was provided too late for evasive action.

In addition, the constant alerts and warnings used by many safety features can cause drivers to become complacent and either ignore warnings that are too frequent or become too dependent on them. It's easy to forget to closely check your mirrors if you've become accustomed to hearing a blind-spot alert.

Another growing problem is that new features are constantly being added to vehicles and are creating more driving distractions. Using state-of-the-art tools for measuring brain activity and driving performance, AAA research showed that drivers using even hands-free phone systems had trouble focusing on basic driving tasks.

If you want to learn more about these studies, go to

Finally, whether or not your car is equipped with the latest features, research has proven the wisdom of keeping your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel, and, most important of all, your mind on the task of driving. It may not be as amazing as the latest technology, but safer driving is often just that simple. Happy holidays and safe travels to you and your family.

Jim McGrath

November/December 2015 Issue

Jim McGrath


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