• February 2nd, 2017

Nap.edu: An ordinary car has about 30,000 separate parts, but only one component is persistently prone to catastrophic failure: the driver. Whereas 2 percent of accidents are caused by equipment malfunction, 94 percent are the driver’s fault.

That is why much of the progress in highway safety during the past century has resulted frombehavioral science that reveals how drivers interact with their vehicles. The value of this work will only increase as the nation finds itself on the verge of a revolution in personal transportation—the self-driving automobile.

Many safety systems and procedures we take for granted today arose from applied behavioral research—where cognitive science meets engineering, and both advance in tandem. For example, the fact that cars are now equipped with a center-mounted supplementary brake light more easily seen by drivers following behind is thanks to a groundbreaking study of rear-end crashes conducted by California psychologist John Voevodsky in the early 1970s.