The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently performed a study that revealed that many don’t fully understand the limitations of the latest autonomous vehicle systems, such as GM Super Cruise or Tesla Autopilot.
The study found that 27 percent of people surveyed think it’s ok to take the hands off the wheel while using GM-Cadillac Super Cruise system. Though Super Cruise allows for hands-free driving, it still requires driver attention and input, at times.
Meanwhile, a whopping 48 percent of respondents thought it was fine to remove their hands from the wheel while the Tesla Autopilot system is activated, and six percent of those surveyed believed it was safe to take a nap while Autopilot is on, something we saw take place only recently.
The issue at hand is this: as these autonomous vehicle systems improve in accuracy, drivers rely on them more and more, which can lead to false perceptions of functionality, thereby leading to safety issues. In its study, the IIHS revealed how the named manufacturers using these systems could give drivers the wrong idea about the capabilities and, most importantly, the limitations, of their vehicles.
As we write this, the current autonomous systems found in cars, such as Cadillac Super Cruise, only cover the Level 2 spectrum of driving automation. There are five levels in all, with Level 2 defined by the IIHS as the following:
“An automated system can assist the driver with multiple parts of the driving task. The driver must continue to monitor the driving environment and be actively engaged.”
What this means is that all systems currently offered by carmakers, including GM/Cadillac SuperCruise and Tesla AutoPilot, are still at the driver assistance stage, and nowhere near the Level 5 stage which is defined as “an automated system can perform the entire driving task without driver input under all conditions.”
The IIHS went on to say that if the current levels of automation aren’t addressed by carmakers with a certain amount of driver education, they could pose new risks to motorists. Meanwhile, GM is pushing forth with a full fleet of fully-autonomous robo-taxis under its Cruise division, though the timeline for the service’s launch seems slightly unclear at the moment.