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Does it really?

Yes. Think about it this way: if having Autopilot on requires the same amount of attention/effort as having it off, then there would essentially be no point to the system whatsoever. The entire idea is that the system takes over some of the driving tasks to make the experience more pleasant, just like how regular cruise control is convenient because it frees you from having to pay attention to maintaining the car's speed by pressing the accelerator pedal.

The question is, does it reduce the amount of attention paid to a significant enough degree that it's dangerous? Consider subways -- most of them have automatic train control systems in place that could effectively drive the trains automatically. However, operators are still required to control the speed, largely because it keeps them engaged.

Give an operator nothing to do, and they won't pay attention -- this is basic human psychology (look up "Vigilance Tasks" if you're interested in further reading).

A lot of the attention you pay during normal driving is on mundane things like making tiny adjustments to stay within the lines. By removing that requirement you have more attention to put towards useful things.

That's not how human attention and focus works. There are literally decades of study on this sort of thing. Almost every other major carmaker and autonomous vehicle development company (except Uber, and some poor woman was killed because of it) have publicly abandoned plans for SAE Level 3 autonomous vehicles because over years of testing they've found that their own engineers, test drivers, directors, etc, who are intimately familiar with the technology and the peculiarities of their own product, can't stay focused on the car and the driving environment under those conditions.

Yeah - but that's most likely to be your phone, or the argument you had at work with your boss, or wondering why your partner didn't talk much this morning... I strongly doubt any "freed up attention" is getting redirected into driving-safety related "useful things".

This is where we separate the good drivers from the accidents waiting to happen. The good drivers will be watching the five or more cars ahead in all lanes to catch any unexpected braking or lane changes, and watching passing vehicles for indications of being exit-darters (those drivers who are so keen to catch the exit they will drive at high speed in the passing lane, then madly swerve through the slow lanes to get to their exit).

The accidents will instead get caught up in that antivaxxer Facebook debate on their phones.

Part of the reason I use the adaptive cruise in my Camry Hybrid is because it frees me from paying constant attention to the distance between me and the car ahead. Being a responsible driver means keeping an eye on this, as it does make errors and occasionally puts me in an unsafe situation - either too close to another car, or too fast in a traffic situation.

Yes. See the FAA’s research on actual autopilot and pilots’ attention fatigue.

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