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AAA Study Finds Some Self-Driving Tech Is Better Than Others

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Automakers are racing toward a future where cars drive themselves. Many new cars today can do some of the driving for you. A study from AAA finds some technologies are better than others.

Cadillac's Super Cruise technology lets you take your hands off the wheel, but a camera makes sure your eyes are on the road.

Other semi-autonomous cars, including Teslas and certain Hyundai models, can steer and brake on their own, but still require drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and send an alert if they are too hands off.

"It can be something that takes some stress out of driving, but it can't be over-relied on," says Director of Automotive Engineering for AAA Greg Brannon.

AAA tested two of the monitoring technologies these cars use.

The first is an indirect system that senses if hands are on the wheel. Those drivers were able to keep their hands off for several seconds while looking down.

The second system uses cameras, and those drivers were warned sooner to look at the road.

"The cameras are much more effective. In fact, about five times more effective than the indirect systems," says Brannon.

When asked why it's better to have an actual camera than just monitoring where your hands are, Brannon says, "The reason is that it's very simple for someone to have their head down and occasionally then just tug on the steering wheel and basically defeat the indirect systems that don't have a camera."

In the study, indirect systems allowed drivers to go up to six miles without paying much attention.

"Let's be clear, all of the responsibility right now falls on the driver," Brannon says.

He says the technology can help drivers but can't replace them.

AAA's study also found that lighting or time of day did not impact the effectiveness of driver monitoring systems.

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