Semi-autonomous driver assist systems like GM Super Cruise are true game-changers, but according to a recent study, many users overestimate the capabilities of these new technologies.
In a recent report, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) outlines the results of an IIHS study which analyzes the way in which motorists use semi-autonomous driver assist systems like GM Super Cruise. According to the report, the study demonstrated that users regularly treat these systems as fully self-driving, despite the prevalence of multiple system warnings and high-profile crashes.
In addition to looking at GM Super Cruise, the study also looked at the Tesla Autopilot system and the Nissan / Infiniti ProPILOT system. The study incorporated survey responses from roughly 200 users from each brand, or 600 users total. All three systems incorporate similar features, such as adaptive cruise control and automatic lane centering, while GM Super Cruise is unique in that it allows the user to remove their hands from the steering wheel for extended periods of time. The other two systems require that drivers keep their hands on the steering wheel.
Notably, GM Super Cruise and Tesla Autopilot also include a driver-facing camera to ensure that the driver is paying attention and can reassume control of the vehicle if needed.
According to the IIHS report, GM Super Cruise and Tesla Autopilot users are more likely to engage in activities that involve taking their hands off the wheel and their eyes off the road as compared to ProPILOT users. GM Super Cruise users were also the most likely to say that an activity they think is unsafe with the system switched off is safe with the system switched on. Additionally, 53 percent of GM Super Cruise users said they were comfortable treating their vehicle as fully self-driving.
The IIHS suggest that demographics may have an influence in these results, with GM Super Cruise users more likely to be male and over the age of 50. Marketing may also play a role, with GM Super Cruise commercials highlighting the system’s hands-free capabilities.
The three systems also differ with regard to the methods in which the driver’s attention is recalled in terms of escalation sequences and fail-safe measures. GM Super Cruise and Tesla Autopilot include a lockout feature that will disable the system and prevent it from being restarted.
“These results from frequent users of three different partial automation systems once again drive home the need for robust, multifaceted safeguards,” said IIHS Research Scientist Alexandra Mueller, the lead author of the study. “Many of these drivers said they had experiences where they had to suddenly take over the driving because the automation did something unexpected, sometimes while they were doing something they were not supposed to.”