When Tesla sells a Full Self Driving package for $15,000 US, people seem to trust the name and use it pretty much as such, according to a new study, even if they only have the less capable Autopilot system. Even more surprising, Cadillac owners feel even more confident in their car’s Super Cruise feature.
According to a report released today by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 53% of Cadillac Super Cruise drivers, 42% of Tesla Autopilot users and 12% of Nissan ProPilot users treat their car’s driver-assistance technologies well as fully capable. self-driving systems. But many of those same drivers have been locked out of advanced self-driving systems due to lack of attention: 40% of Autopilot and Super Cruise drivers reported that their systems shut down automatically at some point, after their car decided it wasn’t paying enough attention. spend.
That is even though they often have to take matters into their own hands if the software fails.
“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 doing something they weren’t supposed to,” IIHS researcher Alexandra Mueller and lead author of the report said in a statement. .
I’ve never been locked out of Autopilot by my Tesla Model Y, but I’ve had situations where I had to turn off Autopilot and take control. Construction zones with unclear signage and lane markings are a common culprit.
One of the core issues, according to the research, is people doing non-automotive activities that require attention.
Especially Tesla and Cadillac drivers.
“Super Cruise and Autopilot users are more likely than ProPilot users to do things that require taking their hands off the wheel or their eyes off the road,” the IIHS said today. “They are also more likely than ProPilot users to say they can do non-driving activities better and more often while using their partial automation systems.”
An example: eating while driving.
While snacking on an apple with one hand while driving is one thing, eating a Double Cheese from Wendy’s is another. That sometimes requires two hands, meaning zero hands on the wheel. And while old car-eaters can operate their steering wheel with a knee, it’s obviously not that safe. However, with Autopilot, Super Cruise or ProPilot, your car automatically stays in your lane and maintains the following distance of the vehicle in front. The technology may be safer than the knee, but it’s not foolproof.
“Track tests and real crashes have provided ample evidence that today’s partial automation systems struggle to recognize and respond to common driving situations and road features,” the IIHS says.
In my personal experience, a greater danger than doing things that take some of your attention off the road is the complacency that comes from relying on a partially self-driving vehicle to do the right thing.
In a small previous study on Volvo’s self-driving technology, Pilot Assist, the IIHS found that complacency to be significant.
“Drivers were more than twice as likely to show signs of disconnection after a month of using Pilot Assist compared to the beginning of the study,” IIHS Senior Research Scientist Ian Reagan said at the time. “Compared to manual driving, they were more than 12 times more likely to take both hands off the wheel after getting used to how lane centering worked.”
The result: we need better ways to get drivers to actually pay attention. Or, of course, really full self-propelled capability.
That seems to be a long way off, however.