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Automakers seek ways to keep drivers engaged behind the wheel

Semi-autonomous vehicle technology meant to prevent accidents remains dependent on drivers paying attention. Technology, like Tesla's autopilot or automatic emergency brakes, relies on sensors, cameras and software to interpret traffic and take corrective actions. Although the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recognizes the potential of driver-assistive technology to reduce crash rates, the technology has not become completely dependable. To stop drivers in California from assuming a false sense of safety, automakers have built systems to monitor driver engagement.

General Motors Co. has installed in-cabin cameras in some vehicles. The cameras check to see if drivers are keeping their eyes on the road. Tesla has added steering wheel sensors to collect information about how drivers are holding the wheel. When drivers activate autopilot, a message on the dashboard of new Tesla vehicles reminds them that they are responsible for paying attention to traffic.

Accidents and incidents have shown the shortcomings of driver-assistive technology. A Model S hit the rear of a fire engine because the vehicle accelerated instead of braking. The sensors on the Model S did not detect the fire engine after a vehicle changed lanes and exposed the large truck. Drivers of some Nissan Rogue models reported that the automatic emergency brakes slowed the vehicle when no reason to do so existed.

Distracted or inattentive drivers might have a legal responsibility to pay for the damages that their accidents cause other people. A person burdened by injuries and disruptions in income might struggle to collect evidence about a car crash. The representation of an attorney might overcome the challenges of negotiating with an insurer or communicating a complaint in court. The lawyer might build a thorough case that describes the negligent cause of the accident and the extent of financial harm experienced by the victim.

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