Too many car owners are too comfortable leaving their vehicles’ driver-assist features in charge, potentially putting themselves and others at risk, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
IIHS said a survey of about 600 regular users of General Motors Super Cruise, Nissan/Infiniti ProPILOT Assist, and Tesla Autopilot found they were “more likely to perform non-driving-related activities like eating or texting while using their partial automation systems than while driving unassisted.”
“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.
The study reports that 53 percent of Super Cruise users, 42 percent of Tesla Autopilot users, and 12 percent of Nissan’s ProPilot Assist users were comfortable letting the system drive without watching what was happening on the road. Some even described being comfortable letting the vehicle drive during inclement weather.
These systems combine adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping systems, primarily to keep a car in a lane and following traffic on the highway. All require an attentive human driver to monitor the road and take full control when called for.
“None of the current systems is designed to replace a human driver or to make it safe for a driver to perform other activities that take their focus away from the road,” IIHS said in announcing the results of its survey.
While all three automakers caution drivers about the systems’ limits, confusion remains. Tesla’s driver-assist system, which it calls “full self-driving” has received much scrutiny over the years as auto safety experts say the name is misleading and risks worsening road safety.
The U.S.government has set no standards for these features, which are some of the newest technologies on vehicles today. A patchwork of state laws and voluntary federal guidelines is attempting to cover the testing and eventual deployment of autonomous vehicles in the United States.