Features Work Only if you Use Them

November 14th, 2017 by Guajardo & Marks, LLP

When someone first had the idea of mixing the combustible engine with wheels, the concepts were fairly simple. The first engines were little more complex than those on a modern riding lawn-mower, and sometimes were even simpler. The controls weren’t very difficult. It didn’t take much education to understand the ins and outs and master the whole system.

But fast-forward a little more than one hundred years and the game has changed completely. Not only are cars themselves more complex, but the systems are even more so; most modern cars rely on computer systems powerful enough to send a mid-century rocket into the atmosphere.

Many Consumers Unaware of Uses

While this has made cars more powerful, more energy-efficient and, unarguably, safer, it also creates major challenges for the average driver in figuring out how to use all the systems to their full advantage. A feature that allows a car to park itself is useless, for example, if you don’t know how to turn it on; and a driverless car may work wonderfully but be equally useless if the driver does not know how to tell the vehicle where he wants to go.

The issue is more significant than most people might expect, according to an article in Wired magazine. At least part of the issue is due not to the potential complexity of the new safety features, but to the inadequacy of the people who teach how to use the safety features.

Learning from Auto Dealers

While auto dealers are a nearly irreplaceable part of the auto industry, the dealers themselves are often unfamiliar with the features and cannot explain exactly how they work and what they do. Wired cites a study done by MIT researchers in which they surveyed 18 auto dealerships in the Boston area. Of the dealerships and the salespeople evaluated, only six gave what were considered “thorough” explanations of the new technologies; four gave poor explanations; and two were so bad as to be dangerous to the driver.

While Wired points out that the sample size in the study is small, there are significant problems with the way new technologies are being transferred to consumers, whose lives may literally depend on it.

Many times, the dealers themselves are not trained in the technology, especially if they are not aligned with the company. Sometimes the trainers are not employed by the auto manufacturer; in other cases, the training materials are inadequate.

Incurious and Inattentive Users

At other times, the issue of implementing the technology lies with the consumers themselves. Wired cites another study about self-driving cars which have a feature requiring drivers to take over in certain instances. However, the humans in the study proved to be inattentive, and when it was time for them to take control of the vehicles, they weren’t aware of their surroundings and weren’t ready to take over the vehicles. Many companies, therefore, are choosing to simply make the vehicles 100 percent autonomous, taking the human element completely out of the equation.

To be sure, the problem doesn’t rest solely with either manufacturers or dealers; instead some of the responsibility belongs to consumers, who should take the time to examine, research and learn about their vehicle’s features themselves. Resources do exist for those who are curious: loads of information is available on the Internet. However, the simplest way to ensure that the information is conveyed is to train dealers and sales staff about how the technologies work; they then will be able explain to consumers how to safely and fully use their modern vehicles.

If you or a loved one has been injured because of a vehicle accident in which safety features did not work properly or at all, contact Guajardo & Marks today. With over 50 years of legal experience in Texas, and working out of offices in Dallas, Guajardo & Marks has the knowledge and resources to help with your legal needs. If you have questions or would like to set up an appointment, contact us online or call us at 972.774.9800.