Automated systems in cars are supposed to make life behind the wheel easier. But new studies suggest they might cause more confusion among drivers.
Two studies from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety claim drivers don’t know enough about how these systems work, and can become misguided on their features based on their names, such as Tesla’s Autopilot.
“Current levels of automation could potentially improve safety,” said IIHS President David Harkey in a statement. “However, unless drivers have a certain amount of knowledge and comprehension, these new features also have the potential to create new risks.”
One study featured a survey of more than 2,000 drivers and asked about five automated systems: Autopilot, Traffic Jam Assist for Audi and Acura, Cadillac’s Super Cruise, BMW’s Driving Assistant Plus and Nissan’s ProPilot Assist. The survey required participants to answer questions about two of the systems.
In the case of Autopilot, 48% of participants said it was safe to take your hands off the wheel while using the system, while “substantially greater portions of people” thought Autopilot was safe to use while viewing scenery or reading a book compared to other systems.
A second study reviewed whether drivers understood what was displayed by their automated systems. The study took 80 volunteers and had them watch videos of the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class’ Drive Pilot system from the perspective of the driver, then answer questions about features like lane centering.
The results found some drivers couldn’t understand why lane centering wasn’t active during portions of the drive.
“When lane centering does not work because of a lack of lane lines, you need to steer,” said Harkey. “If people aren’t understanding when those lapses occur, manufacturers should find a better way of alerting them.”
Tesla’s Autopilot has emerged in headlines following links to deadly car crashes where the feature was reportedly enabled. In May, federal investigators confirmed a Tesla vehicle had Autopilot engaged when it crashed into a semi truck in March, killing the driver.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.