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People in Semi-Autonomous Cars Pay Less Attention While Driving

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Image for article titled Shocking: People Who Buy 'Semi-Autonomous' Cars Pay Less Attention While Driving

Photo: Spencer Platt (Getty Images)

So you bought yourself a fancy new car. One with the full suite of driver-assist features: lane keep, radar cruise, the whole shebang. The salesperson even told you it was something called “level two self-driving,” which must be better than whatever level one was. The thing basically drives itself! Surely, you can check just one text from behind the wheel, right?

Obviously, you should not do this. But a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that basic logic isn’t stopping owners of driver-assist systems from taking up few extracurriculars from the driver’s seat — eating, texting, and more.

Image for article titled Shocking: People Who Buy 'Semi-Autonomous' Cars Pay Less Attention While Driving

Photo: Spencer Platt (Getty Images)

The IIHS study investigated 600 owners of Cadillacs equipped with Super Cruise, Nissans (and Infinitis) with ProPILOT Assist, and Teslas with Autopilot. The findings were expected but still terrifying: regular users of these driver assist systems pay less attention to the road, and more attention to other non-driving activities.

Many of those drivers were also quick to call their cars “self-driving,” including a terrifying majority of Cadillac owners — 53 percent. Forty-two percent of Autopilot users had the same belief in full autonomy, but only 12 percent of Nissan/Infiniti owners. Those drivers were comfortable acting like their cars were self-driving too, meaning you should maybe try to avoid Tesla or Cadillac badges on the highway.

That distinction follows through to how those owners use their vehicles. All parties were more likely to take their hands off the wheel or eyes off the road than your average level-zero assist owner, but Super Cruise and Autopilot users were more likely to do so than drivers that used ProPILOT Assist. Maybe that “assist” in the name really makes a difference.

As always, there are no self-driving cars currently on the market. You cannot purchase a car that drives itself, no matter what any manufacturer’s marketing department tells you. Always pay attention behind the wheel, and remain focused on what you’re doing. And, maybe pay a bit of extra attention to those Escalades and Altimas on your commute.

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