Drivers Are Too Trusting of Partially Autonomous Vehicles Claims IIHS Report

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【Summary】Even with low-level autonomous technology, the IIHS found that it only took one month for drivers to become comfortable with letting the system handle the majority of driving, even when it’s not supposed to be able to.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Nov 21, 2020 7:35 AM PT
Drivers Are Too Trusting of Partially Autonomous Vehicles Claims IIHS Report

Despite what some automakers and companies may have you believe, fully autonomous vehicles are not on sale yet. There is no such thing as a fully self-driving car yet. Because of technology, regulations, and other things, cars that can actually drive themselves won't be on the market for a few decades.

Modern Safety Tech Creates Bad Drivers

Instead of doing the responsible thing of waiting and teaching consumers exactly what autonomous systems are capable of, automakers are all hastily working on coming out with partially autonomous systems that can be abused by consumers. According to research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) AgeLab, current driver-assist systems are creating complacent drivers.

To gather its data, the two organizations got two groups of 10 to drive two vehicles with modern driver-assist systems. The first group of 10 drove a Land Rover Range Rover Evoque that was equipped with adaptive cruise control and the other 10 drove a Volvo S90 with adaptive cruise control and the automaker's Pilot Assist system. Both groups of 10 drove their respective vehicles for a month while they were examined on how they drove the cars.

The vehicles are a good representation of what's available on the market today. The Evoque's adaptive cruise control system falls into the SAE International's scale of being a Level 1 system, as it can assist the driver in handling one task. Volvo's Pilot Assist is a Level 2 system, capable of handling two driver tasks. As the IIHS claims, Level 2 is the highest driver-assist system consumers can purchase in a production vehicle today.

More Safety Results In Riskier Driving

After a month of driving the vehicles, both groups of 10 became overly comfortable with the systems, regularly letting their focus slip and taking their hands off the steering wheel when the vehicles' driver-assist systems were engaged. Drivers, though, were more likely to take their hands off the wheel behind the S90 than the ones driving the Evoque.

"Drivers were more than twice as likely to show signs of disengagement after a month of using Pilot Assist compared with the beginning of the study," said Ian Reagan, IIHS Senior Research Scientist. "Compared with driving manually, they were more than 12 times as likely to take both hands off the wheel after they'd gotten used to how the lane centering worked."
Volvo's Pilot Assist isn't the only Level 2 semi-autonomous system on the market, there's Cadillac's Super Cruise, Mercedes-Benz's Intelligent Drive, and, of course, Tesla's Autopilot. The latter one is the most popular and it's been involved in quite a few fatal accidents. It's also made headlines because of owners and drivers that have been caught sleeping in the back of the car while it's speeding down the highway.
Finding a solution is always a difficult thing, but the IIHS believes that automakers need to come out with "more robust ways of ensuring the driver is looking at the road and ready to take the wheel when using Level 2 systems," said Reagan. With the current driver-assist systems on the road, a lot of drivers can get lulled into thinking that a system is more capable than it is or safer than an automaker claims it is.

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