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Tech Sets the Tone: ADAS tech can instill false sense of driver security, IIHS report says

Toronto, Ontario — Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), particularly things like adaptive cruise control (ACC) and automatic emergency braking (AEB), have done wonders for easing the stress of drivers behind the wheel, but a new report shows those pieces of tech are instilling a false sense of security in those who make regular use of them.

In a recent IIHS study of equal parts GM, Tesla and Nissan/Infiniti drivers who regularly use their vehicle’s respective Super Cruise, Autopilot and ProPILOT Assist features, the institute found that many drivers (Super Cruise, 53 percent; Autopilot, 42 percent; ProPILOT Assist, 12 percent) engage in non-driving-related activities like eating or texting behind the wheel under the false pretense that their vehicle is fully capable of driving itself.

As such, the IIHS is reminding drivers who use these features that “none of these systems are capable of replacing the driver at any point.”

“Often, they will behave in ways that require drivers to rapidly intervene (e.g., allow the vehicle to drift out of the lane, fail to detect an object ahead, or suddenly stop providing driving support. Due to the often functionally rigid nature of the system’s support, drivers cannot safely engage in secondary (non-driving-related) activities while using the technology,” read an excerpt from the report.

The findings of the report do reflect the positive note that drivers are becoming more trusting and accepting of the safety functions of their vehicles, despite not having a full grasp on the scope of their efficacy.

“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. “But we also see clear differences among the three owner populations. It’s possible that system design and marketing are adding to these misconceptions.”

The report also touched on the ways that the distinctive design philosophies of the three OEMs influence how drivers engage with the technology being presented to them.

“For example, some automakers, such as General Motors (GM) and Ford, offer partial automation that is intentionally designed to allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel under certain conditions,” the report reads.

This could be a potential explanation for why GM and Tesla drivers, the latter of whom also are permitted to take their hands off the wheel thanks to certain display messages, have been shown to engage in more hand-occupying activities than their Nissan or Infiniti-driving counterparts.

“It seems logical that drivers would be more likely to engage in certain visual-manual activities when the system is explicitly designed to allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel,” the report conceded.

The report’s authors say “This study confirms that system designs and consumer populations vary among manufacturers, and these factors affect how people use the technology. Worryingly, some drivers appear to have a false sense of security about how they are meant to use the technology and what it is designed to do.”

The full report, entitled “Habits, attitudes, and expectations of regular users of partial driving automation systems,” can be found here.

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