Semi-autonomous driving technologies like General Motors’ Super Cruise system are intended to make driving both safer and easier by taking some responsibility away from the driver and placing it on the vehicle. However, some critics have said these systems present their own risks, lulling drivers into a false sense of security and causing them to let their guard down and lose focus of the driving task.
A recent paper published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) indicates that GM’s Super Cruise system does not have this problem, though. The paper, titled ‘Driver Behavior and the Use of Automation in Real-World Driving’, attempts to assess how drivers leverage semi-autonomous technology in real-world driving scenarios and identifies common driver behaviours associated with such systems.
MIT researchers had 14 different participants drive Super Cruise-equipped Cadillac CT6 vehicles for one month each and used onboard cameras to observe the drivers’ behaviours and the traffic scenarios they were in. They then used this footage to record driver disengagements, which is when the system must turn the controls back over to the human driver, as well as transfers of control that were initiated by the driver themselves.
Researchers found humans would willingly retake control of the car to execute certain maneuvers that Super Cruise couldn’t, such as lane changes. The researchers said these scenarios happened more often than they expected, signifying a high degree of cooperation between the technology and the driver.
“In the back of my mind, I thought that drivers would probably put the automation on when the system was available and then disengage it when they got off the highway,” Pnina Gershon, the study’s lead author, told Automotive News in an interview. “That was my expectation. But it’s surprising there’s a high degree of collaboration between the driver and the system, even though it’s hands-free driving.”
MIT hopes studies like this can help engineers design future semi-autonomous vehicle technologies, allowing them to make it easier for drivers to shift between semi-autonomous control and human control as needed. These studies could also help form future policy around semi-autonomous tech, giving politicians more direction as they try to form appropriate regulations regarding the usage of such technology and its implementation in new production vehicles.
GM is planning to roll out Super Cruise to 22 of its models globally by 2023, including its wildly popular GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado full-size truck lines. The automaker is also developing a more advanced version of the technology called Ultra Cruise, which is expected to make its public debut sometime in the not-too-distant future.