Drivers should be trained to use the semi-autonomous assistance systems fitted to modern vehicles, a road safety organisation has said. IAM Roadsmart says adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking systems and lane keeping assist could all be useful if they are used “correctly”.

The charity says these systems, which have been introduced to improve road safety, could make driving a much safer form of transport, but driver awareness of how to use the systems is “generally low”. In the wake of a Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) report into the technology, the charity has urged instructors and authorities to cover the systems in new drivers’ lessons.

IAM Roadsmart proposes that learner drivers should have one “comprehensive” lesson dedicated to the correct use of these systems. The organisation warns that incorrect use of the technology could have “potentially worrying” consequences for all road users, not just those with the systems fitted to their vehicles.

Tesla Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance

At present, the FIA report says most drivers do not receive any formal training when first encountering these “advanced driver assistance systems” or ADAs. Instead, they are forced to rely on information from the user manual, or by using trial and error. Both the FIA and IAM Roadsmart recommend drivers should be told how to use the systems, and failsafe communications should exist to alert drivers to system failures.

“Advanced driver assistance systems have the potential to improve road safety, but only if used correctly,” said IAM Roadsmart’s director of policy and research, Neil Greig. “If used incorrectly, not least without a full understanding of what the systems are and are not capable of, they can have the opposite effect, with potentially worrying consequences for all road users.

VW AEB illustration

“IAM Roadsmart therefore believes the time has now come to include a comprehensive lesson from every car dealer supplying vehicles and further, for more about ADAS to be included in the UK driving test. This is crucial as these tools begin to be supplied as standard on an increasing number of vehicles.”

“There needs to be a much higher emphasis on educating drivers in the best use of technology. Vehicle manufacturers and car dealerships are key, ensuring that when a customer drives off the forecourt they understand and use the various safety systems correctly. Until this becomes the norm, IAM Roadsmart is exploring the potential for video tutorials that will plug the current gap.”