Drivers should not use driver assistance technology such as autopilot, the group warns

Although Americans may not yet be able to purchase a fully autonomous vehicle, some motorists are treating technologies that take over some of the driving jobs like a personal chauffeur, according to a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Such technology can help prevent your car from drifting into another lane, for example, but that doesn’t mean you should catch up on email behind the wheel. However, drivers who use partial automation on a regular basis often operate their vehicles as if they were fully autonomous, the team said.

Those with Cadillac Super Cruise, Nissan/Infiniti ProPILOT Assist and Tesla Autopilot are more likely to eat or text while using the partially automated systems than to drive unaided, according to results released Tuesday by the IIHS.

The findings are based on surveys of approximately 600 Cadillac, Nissan/Infiniti and Tesla owners who make regular use of their vehicle’s partial automation system. Worryingly, 53% of Super Cruise users, 42% of Autopilot users and 12% of ProPILOT Assist users said they were comfortable using their vehicles as fully self-driving.

The results underscore the need for multifaceted safeguards, according to Alexandra Mueller, IIHS researcher and lead author of the study.

“Many of these drivers said they had experiences where they had to suddenly take over driving because the automation did something unexpected, sometimes while they were doing something they shouldn’t,” Mueller said in a statement.

Much of the driver assistance technology available today is designed to help with highway driving, with features such as adaptive cruise control that keeps the vehicle at a set speed, automatically slowing and accelerating to maintain a set distance from other cars, he noted. the IIHS.

At the same time, lane centering systems offer steering support to keep the vehicle in the middle of the road. Some systems are capable of lane changing and other advanced maneuvers.

But “overreliance on either hands-free or hands-on-wheel partial automation can lead drivers to not intervene even when they see a dangerous situation forming in front of them, because they mistakenly believe the system can handle more than what it was designed to do,” the IIHS said in the report.


However, none of the systems in use now are designed to replace a human driver or make it safe for a driver to do other things and take their eyes off the road.

“Early adopters of these systems still have a poor understanding of the technology’s limits,” David Harkey, president of the IIHS, said in a statement. “It’s possible that system design and marketing add to these misconceptions.”

For example, television commercials for Cadillac’s Super Cruise system tout its hands-free capabilities by showing drivers hitting their laps and clapping their hands along to a song, the IIHS noted. The name Autopilot also suggests that Tesla’s system is more capable than it actually is, while ProPILOT Assist signals that it is an assistance function rather than a replacement for the driver, the team added.

“Nissan clearly communicates ProPILOT Assist as a system that assists the driver and requires hands-on operation. The driver maintains control of the vehicle at all times,” the automaker said in an email.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

GM said it is “critical” for drivers to stay in control, noting that this engagement is “required to operate any advanced driver assistance system in any vehicle we sell,” a spokesman said in an email.

GM’s Driver Attention System is designed to ensure the driver’s attention is on the road during hands-free driving by monitoring the driver’s head position and gaze relative to the road, the automaker said.

“When the system detects that the driver is not paying attention, a series of escalations will prompt the driver to re-engage. When using Super Cruise, the driver is responsible for operating the vehicle in a safe manner and must remain alert to traffic, the environment and the environment and road conditions at all times,” GM said.

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