"Believe it or not, drivers do do crosswords, read books, and watch telly while (supposedly) driving. Keep a close eye on long distance lorry drivers (they're easier to spot but not the only ones, and we're not even getting into texting/fiddling with the phone territory) and you'll see of all the above. "
I drive about 1000 miles per week. Have done for years. I've seen all of the above and worse. Much worse. That's why partial driving assistance worries me so much. There are too many brainless meatbags on the roads for comfort already and anything which allows more people to switch off their brains while in charge of 1-2 tons of speeding death is scary.
I can't actually see what lorry drivers are up to in their cabs, but rarely a day goes by when I don't see at least a few who wander a foot or two into the hard shoulder at 56mph. So, while I agree that "automatic" driving skills take some brain function up that could be better used for situational awareness, I don't believe that all drivers would use those extra brain clock cycles sensibly.
Although I'm just guessing, I wonder how many multi-vehicle pile-ups include drivers on cruise control who don't react quickly enough because that part of driving had been "taken over" by the car so had more brain capacity for other stuff rather than driving.
As I've said in other posts, partial abrogation of driving responsibility to the cars systems (AI or otherwise) worries me more than total AI control. But that becomes a chicken and egg situation. Who is going to provide full AI control on roads full of none-AI cars? Who is going to assign a motorway lane to the very few early-adoptor AI cars? It needs to be incremental to be economic but will there be a carmageddon during the transition time it takes for the expensive high tech to filter down to the average car?