The Department of Transport in the US is setting up a program to test automated safety programs on cars, such as cruise control guidance and emergency braking technologies, to find out how drivers react to cars taking evasive action on their own.

Mercedes-Benz PRE-SAFE

The DOT is concerned about how drivers will react if, say, the car they are driving suddenly slams on the brakes by itself in an emergency situation. To test this, DOT has gathered 100 volunteers who will get behind the wheel of cars fitted with various automated safety devices, and will send them out on a typical suburban traffic model created on the Michigan International Speedway.

The cars will constantly communicate with each other using wireless sensors and signals. If a car notices a hazard ahead, the car will first warn the driver. If the driver doesn't make any input to avoid hitting the other car - a stationary car ahead about to make a turn for example - it will make an emergency stop by itself, without the driver doing anything.

What DOT will test is just how the drivers react in those situations - if the driver will hesitate or interfere with the controls at the last minute. The government department will also gauge the trust each driver has in the technology.

A number of manufacturers will be donating vehicles to the experiment to see just how the results shape up. Car makers getting involved include Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen.

Since these automated technologies are generally regarded as the next step in cruise control and active safety, with radar-guided cruise control and low-speed hazard warnings already available on some cars, it will be interesting to see the outcome of this test.

These systems could potentially eliminate the reliance on the driver and hand over the controls to the computers to avoid accidents, but would you trust the car to make a sudden turn, or make an emergency stop all by itself? Feel free to give us your thoughts in the comments section below.