11 Surprising Car Features That Are Making Us Inadvertently Dumber

Remember when driving demanded your full attention? No distractions, just you and the road, and parallel parking was something to be proud of.  Now, cars practically drive themselves with lane assist, parking cameras, and more. Sure, these features are convenient but at what cost? Modern technology-related distractions while driving increase the chance of accidents by a BIG percentage (source). Do we need all these gadgets, or are they just a flashy way to complicate life, especially as we age? Let’s explore how these well-intentioned features could be creating a generation of distracted, unskilled drivers.

1. Lane Assist Systems

Lane assist helps to steer and keep your car in its lane, which is handy. But let’s consider: could this make us over-reliant, potentially dulling our manual driving skills? It’s crucial to keep these abilities honed, as we did in the old days.  

2. Rear Cameras

Rear cameras show what’s behind your car when reversing, aiming to increase safety. However, do they discourage us from the traditional practice of looking over our shoulders? Maintaining old habits of checking around could keep us more aware and safe.  

3. Voice Commands

Modern cars allow you to make calls or send messages with voice commands. As an older adult with weak senses, it’s important to ensure this does not distract our attention from the road, even though it keeps our hands free. Keeping our full attention on driving is vital.  

4. In-Car Entertainment

Entertainment systems in cars can make long trips enjoyable with movies and music. Drivers’ reaction times deteriorate and they may miss traffic lights, pedestrians, or other cars when they are preoccupied with audio distractions. Perhaps it’s best to focus on the road, just like in the past.  

5. Smart Device Integration

Syncing smartphones with the car’s system is intended to prevent handling phones while driving. Yet, engaging in conversations or managing apps, even hands-free, could divide our attention. Minimizing these interactions might be the safest bet.  

6. Autopilot Systems

Autopilot aims to reduce driving tasks, but might it lead us to become too relaxed and less vigilant? Being actively engaged in driving and ready to take control is as crucial now at this old age as it ever was.  

7. Heads-Up Displays (HUDs)

To keep drivers from taking their eyes off the road, HUDs are designed to display information clearly and in the driver’s line of sight. However, the constant visual stimuli, while meant to be helpful, could distract from the driving task itself. It’s essential to balance the information displayed to keep our full attention on the road.

8. Gesture Control Systems

Cars equipped with gesture control systems allow drivers to operate various functions with hand movements. Even though they are creative, learning these gestures can cause one to get more distracted than usual when driving and increase cognitive load. It may also be too dangerous for seniors to use.   

9. Touchscreen Infotainment Systems

In many contemporary cars, conventional buttons and knobs have been replaced by touchscreens. While they offer a sleek interface, they require more visual and manual attention to operate. Compared to traditional tactile controls, this requirement for accurate vision and touch could cause drivers to look away from the road more frequently. For senior drivers in particular, this could cause issues with manual dexterity and deteriorating vision  

10. Automatic Parking Assist

Automatic parking assist is designed to ease the parking process, particularly in tight spaces. While beneficial, over-reliance on this technology can diminish a driver’s manual parking skills and spatial awareness, potentially making them less adept without technological assistance.  

11. Adaptive Cruise Control

Adaptive cruise control maintains a safe following distance without the driver needing to adjust the speed manually. This feature is designed for safety and convenience but might lead to decreased attentiveness to the driving environment. Drivers should remain alert and ready to intervene despite the automation.