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Is technology outpacing society? It's a philosophical question that's been asked for decades, but with the advent of advanced driver-assist systems in vehicles, it's a topic increasingly on the minds of just about anyone connected to the automotive industry. The important word in that sentence is assist, as no production vehicle offers full hands-off, eyes-off, automated driving.

That is, at least not safe or legal automated driving, and therein lies the crux of this new study from AAA. Level 2 driver assists can control acceleration, braking, and steering functions but a driver must stay alert and engaged to make driving decisions that computers can't handle. Driver monitoring systems are designed to prevent the driver from neglecting that responsibility, but it's no secret that such systems can be fooled. AAA's research takes a deeper dive into how easily this can happen, and for how long.

The study classifies driver monitoring systems into direct and indirect categories, with direct systems using driver-facing cameras to actively watch the driver at all times. Indirect systems function through driver inputs, such as pressure on the steering wheel. As you'd expect, the study found that direct systems do a far better job of preventing drivers from slacking off behind the wheel. But neither stopped drivers from extended disengagement.

To that end, AAA found that indirect systems allowed for an average of five minutes of driver distraction, versus two minutes for active systems. Five minutes of not paying attention is a lifetime in a moving vehicle, but skirting cameras for two minutes is certainly significant as well. Traveling at speeds of 65 mph, direct driver-monitoring systems in AAA's evaluation allowed over two miles of disengaged driving. For obvious reasons, the study doesn't detail exactly how the systems were tricked.

Gallery: Cadillac Super Cruise

However, AAA does say that no tools or devices were used, just the cunning of drivers learning the nuances of the systems and how to keep them happy without actually staying engaged. For indirect systems, AAA says "test drivers were able to obtain this metric with minimal challenge relative to direct systems." Though the cameras are tougher to beat, two minutes of disengaged driving was still possible without using fake glasses to mimic eyes, or putting weights on the steering wheel.

AAA's ultimate conclusion is that, whether direct or indirect, "all evaluated systems were susceptible to active circumvention."

Details of the study are available at the source link below.

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