Today's connected cars try to deliver a lot of safety features, such as using radar and video cameras to detect an imminent accident and sometimes take over braking and steering control in an effort to avert that accident.

At the very least, the cars will issue increasingly loud and bright visual and audio alerts to get the driver to take action to avert the accident.

But a new University of Missouri College of Engineering study calls into question whether such systems work and, far more frightening, whether they might indeed be counterproductive and make drivers less safe.

Yet it's possible that a simple smartwatch might be part of the solution.

The problems with these systems — sometimes called advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) — come down to two issues: alert fatigue (where the driver gets so annoyed by the frequent and seemingly pointless alerts that the driver either ignores them or turns them off), and distractions that come at the worst possible instant.

According to Jung Hyup Kim, an assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering in the University of Missouri College of Engineering and a primary author of the study, there are two possible driver states at the moment of alert that a serious accident is imminent: The driver either already knows about the situation and is actively working at this instant to avoid the accident; or the driver doesn't already know about it.

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