Study: Many drivers of partially automated cars admit to eating and texting
US Tesla and Nissan drivers are treating their partially automated cars as if they are fully self-driving, a study has found.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a group that ensures automakers are making safer vehicles, found in a study that drivers using advanced driver assistance systems such as Tesla’s Autopilot, Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist, and Super Cruise, are treating their cars like they are fully self-driving.
IIHS found that the drivers “were more likely to perform non-driving-related activities like eating or texting while using their partial automation systems than while driving unassisted.”
According to the study of 600 active users, 53% of Super Cruise, 42% of Autopilot, and 12% of ProPILOT Assist owners “said that they were comfortable treating their vehicles as fully self-driving.”
Around 40% of users of Autopilot and Super Cruise reported systems have switched off on them while they were driving and would not reactivate. This is because both of these systems lock out users if they fail to properly pay attention.
“The big-picture message here is that the early adopters of these systems still have a poor understanding of the technology’s limits,” said IIHS president David Harkey.
Ever since 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened 37 special investigations involving 18 deaths in car crashes involving Tesla vehicles and where its Autopilot is suspected to be in use.
IIHS said advertisements for Super Cruise focus on hands-free capabilities while Autopilot suggests in it name that “Tesla’s system is more capable than it really is,” due to its similarity to the term used in airplanes.
However, the ProPILOT Assist “suggests that it’s an assistance feature, rather than a replacement for the driver,” which may indicate why the statistic was lower for the Nissan drivers.
Nissan agreed, saying its name “is clearly communicating ProPILOT Assist as a system to aid the driver, and it requires hands-on operation. The driver maintains control of the vehicle at all times.”
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