IIHS: Motorists confused by semi-autonomous technology

22 Juin, 2019, 16:10 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
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Many consumers are confused about the capabilities of driver-assistance systems, such as Tesla's Autopilot, according to a study released Thursday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The name "autopilot" is only part of the problem. Several Tesla drivers have been caught literally sleeping at the wheel with Autopilot on, while others have recklessly climbed into the backseat.

In its survey, IIHS asked 2,000 drivers what maneuvers they consider to be safe while using driver-assist technologies, using names companies have given their systems. IIHS took a look at the instrument cluster of a 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class with the Drive Pilot system for this goal.

While nearly every participant was able to understand when adaptive cruise control had adjusted the vehicle speed or detected another vehicle ahead, a lot of them struggled to understand what was happening when the system didn't detect a vehicle ahead because it was initially beyond the range of detection.

Main photo credit: The steering wheel of a Tesla Inc.

The reality is that the auto industry is still struggling to reach the point where drivers can fully hand off control - or where the driver might be removed from the vehicle entirely.

The current technologies offered by automakers like Tesla, BMW, GM and Nissan fall into the Levels 1 and 2 category and still require extensive human oversight.

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When asked whether it would be safe to take their hands off the wheel while using one of those systems, 48 percent of the people asked about Autopilot said they thought it would be, compared to 33 percent or fewer for the other systems. That happens when other vehicles on the road are beyond the range of detection. The Tesla system also produced the highest percentages of people who thought it would be fine to text, watch a movie, take in the scenery, and even nap while engaged.

Systems designed to make driving more automated have created a cloud of confusion for drivers, the IIHS found.

Another IIHS study found that drivers don't always understand important information communicated by on-board displays, like how a system is responding to situations or when a system is temporarily inactive. In some cases, the displays miss potential hazards, lulling drivers into a sense of complacency.

"If your Level 2 system fails to detect a vehicle ahead because of a hill or curve, you need to be ready to brake. Likewise, when lane centering does not work because of a lack of lane lines, you need to steer", says Harkey.

"If people aren't understanding when those lapses occur, manufacturers should find a better way of alerting them", the IIHS concluded.

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