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Do automated blind spot warnings promote safety or complacency?

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 400,000 motor vehicle accidents are caused by blind spots each year, with nearly 160,000 accounting for fatalities. For unsuspecting drivers, it is more what they don’t see than what they see when it comes to sudden and unexpected collisions.

Among the multiple cutting-edge technologies that have addressed those problems for vehicles over the years, blind spot warnings (BSW) helps motor vehicle operators avoid dangerous and potentially deadly collisions.

Potentially life-saving automated systems

BSW systems can involve a combination of cameras, radar, and ultrasonic sensors that detect vehicles in close proximity. Upon detection, drivers receive a visual notification on the outside mirrors, front pillars, center displays. Should a driver engage the turn signal, systems give an unsafe merge/lane change warning in the form of audible or tactile (steering wheel shaking).

BSW systems with Automatic Emergency Steering (AES) are more automated and essentially take over steering or braking to move the vehicle away from a potential collision.

Consumer reaction

Consumer Reports surveys reveal that the most popular systems on 2015-2019 models for users come from Genesis, Jeep, and Lexus. A respondent noted that it was the most valuable technology invented for a motor vehicle, saving the life of him and his wife following a near sideswipe after another car suddenly changed lanes without warning on the interstate.

Those who have problems with the technology purchased vehicles from BMV, Volkswagen, and Tesla. One respondent claimed that the BSW turned off when the car’s speed fell below 30 mph and found the light on the center display panel difficult to detect, particularly on a sunny day.

As with any form of automation in motor vehicles, drivers can become over-reliant on the technology, resulting in complacency. A combination of tech and attentive driving skills can mean the difference between safe driving and a catastrophic accident.