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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Stagg

Cool Gadgets, What Do They Do?

Interior of car facing dashboard.
Photo by Ildar Garifullin on Unsplash

Quick question: do you know how to use all of your vehicle’s features? If the answer is no, you’re not alone. In fact, if you’re Canadian, you’re in the majority. According to a new survey, a sizeable portion of Canadian road users are unable to say exactly how all of the fancy gadgets in their vehicles work.

In an article for The Globe and Mail, Ted Kritsonis takes a look at startling new data about new vehicle is understood and used by Canadian drivers. The survey, which was commissioned by Allstate and conducted by the analytics firm Leger, found that only 29% of Canadian vehicle knew the function of all of the technology their vehicles had to offer. Some provinces came out a bit better than others. Quebec did the best, with 35% of drivers understanding how to use their vehicle’s gadget, followed by Alberta (34%), and then lagging behind, Ontario, B.C. and Manitoba all at 27%.

The above statistics aren’t the only information that was yielded by the survey, which probed further into how and why Canadians are using their vehicle’s technology the way they are:

“The survey also found that eight percent [of] respondents disabled their safety features before they started to drive, with 60 per cent doing so out of annoyance, and 21 per cent saying that they didn’t trust the feature. Of the admittedly already small number, 16 per cent of respondents even said driver assist warnings were a distraction and hindered their driving.”

The statistics are alarming but perhaps not surprising. Vehicle technology has been developing at a breakneck speed. Only a decade ago, most of the technologies that are now standard features of newer vehicle models were not available. While these technological advances have been incredible in terms of their benefits, the quick pace at which they are rolled out can make it hard for drivers to fully digest all of the new features available. This is perhaps especially true for drivers who have been driving for much longer than any of these features have been around. Driving is a habit-forming activity; the way we drive slowly becomes ingrained and turns instinctual over time. If you’ve learned to drive without the use of lane-assist or adaptive cruise control, it can be difficult to introduce new motions into an already habitual practice.

“Technologies such as forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and parking now join features like anti-lock braking, adaptive cruise control and blind spot warning, which have become standard in many makes and models. The result is that new vehicles now come with increasingly more buttons, selections or driving modes than they ever did before.”

But there are other possibilities as well, such as a failure on the part of auto dealers to properly explain the new technologies to buyers taking home a new vehicle. Kritsonis points out that, while auto makers have spent a huge amount of money developing new safety features, there hasn’t been as much emphasis on how these new technologies are being communicated to auto dealers or how they themselves are communicating them to buyers.

This survey, while alarming, provides valuable information about the way safety features are being used in vehicles now on the road. For one expert that Kritsonis spoke to, it was evidence of the importance of making safety features as user-friendly as possible. Safety features, which are used while the vehicle is in motion and might be needed in short notice, need to be as clear and accessible as possible. The more user-friendly a feature is, the more likely a driver is to be able to incorporate it into their current driving habits.

For more on the survey results and their implications, check out the original article by Ted Kritsonis in the Globe and Mail.


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