15 Nov Who Will Keep Drivers Informed About Automation?
During the car-buying process, we all depend on car dealerships to let us know about the features of vehicles in the showroom. But with technology, automation, and artificial intelligence advancing at an incredible rate, how much can we depend on dealerships to keep us well-informed about the ever-expanding list of add-ons?
Not as much as we’d hope, according to a recent MIT study that interviewed salespeople from 18 car dealerships in the Boston, MA, area. Consumers expect these salespeople to be well-informed about the vehicles they’re selling. That means they should be able to understand the finer points of automated features like crash avoidance, lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot monitoring.
That may be the expectation, but in reality only six out of 17 salespeople could give thorough explanations of the technologies they were selling. Worse than that, at least two salespeople gave “almost dangerously incorrect” information.
What Does this Mean?
On the one hand, this is only a small study in one city. On the other hand, these findings should be taken seriously. With the ever-increasing levels of automation in our vehicles, this problem threatens to become more serious as time goes by. We need to take a careful look at the questions this poses about the responsibilities of dealerships, auto manufacturers, and consumers.
First of all: Who is responsible for keeping drivers informed about technological advances? Is it the dealerships? Is it the drivers? Is it the manufacturers? We could make a case for any of these, but it’s not acceptable to simply leave the question open. Everyone involved needs to know what to expect.
Second: What are the responsibilities of auto manufacturers? We could say that it’s enough for them to produce the cars, and the onus is on the dealerships to keep the drivers informed about what they’re dealing with. Or we could say that the same organizations responsible for developing and producing the vehicles have the greatest responsibility to keep the customer informed. Or we could decide the ultimate responsibility lies with the individual driver, who should be trusted to make a responsible and well-informed decision. The point is, we have to decide: which is it?
Last, and potentially most disturbing: What does all this imply for the development of self-driving cars? For the time being, these questions might not be “urgent.” But within a very short time the nature of our roads is going to change radically. How are we going to make sure we know what we’re dealing with? How are we going to make sure drivers are informed about the variations in the crucial self-driving software their lives are going to depend on?
These are serious questions. We need to have answers.
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