'Using a driverless car may make you less competent behind the wheel and ill-prepared to take over the wheel in an emergency, new research suggests.
A study was carried out at the University of Nottingham earlier this year into 'conditional automation' cars capable of self-driving on motorways and in traffic jams, which are expected to be available on the UK market in the next few years.
The research involved 49 drivers of different ages and genders driving a simulator for half an hour every day for five days.
Participants began by driving manually but when the simulation reached a stretch of dual carriageway they were given the chance to hand over control to the car itself.
After around 20 minutes, they were told they needed to manually drive the car again and would get a 60-second 'prepare to drive' notification.
Researchers Gary Burnett, David Large and Davide Salanitri found that the driving after the participants took back control of the car was poor, swerving across lanes and varying their speed during the 10 seconds following the handover.
On the first day of the study, drivers went off course by an average of two metres.
The researchers added that, while the driving performance improved throughout the week, the drivers became more complacent.
Even at the end of the week, nearly half of drivers had to look at the floor to make sure their feet were on the right pedals when asked to take control of the car.
'A major concern is that drivers are likely to have become 'out of the loop', i.e. they have not been required to actively monitor, make decisions about or provide physical inputs to the driving task', the authors said.
'This reduces their perception and comprehension of elements and events in their environment, and their ability to project the future status of these things — their so-called situational awareness.'
Another issue the researchers identified was drivers not being prepared to take back control in emergencies.
More than 80 per cent of drivers used their mobile phone while on the simulated dual carriageway, while others read, applied make-up or slept.
'Participants appeared quite comfortable, even from day one, to engage with these tasks – soon after the opportunity presented itself — despite their ongoing responsibilities towards the vehicle operating,' the authors said.'
Read more: Driverless cars 'pose a significant safety risk because complacent humans are too busy on their phones, reading or SLEEPING to take over in an emergency', trial suggests
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