IIHS: Consumers want safeguards with partial automation

Drivers prefer partial automation that comes with appropriate safety measures, according to new survey conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Drivers prefer partial automation accompanied by appropriate safety measures, according to a new study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“Automotive manufacturers often assume that drivers want as much technology as they can get in their vehicles,” said Alexandra Mueller, the study’s lead designer. “But few studies have explored consumer opinions about partial automation of driving.”

To fill that gap, IIHS researchers conducted a nationwide survey of more than 1,000 drivers that focused on three common features: lane centering, automated lane switching and driver monitoring.

Most partial automation systems are designed to assist with highway driving. Lane centering continuously adjusts the steering to keep the vehicle in the center of the lane, while adaptive cruise control manages the vehicle’s speed and distance from vehicles in front. Some systems also have an automatic lane change feature, which allows the vehicle to change lanes without the driver having to steer.

Part automation still cannot handle many relatively common situations. So systems have to monitor the driver to make sure he’s ready to intervene if something goes wrong. Most use sensors in the steering wheel or driver-facing cameras for this.

The IIHS survey showed that consumer interest in these technologies is high, but drivers seem to prefer partially automated features that require them to stay engaged while driving, Mueller says.

For example, lane centering and automatic lane switching come in ‘hands-free’ versions that allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel under certain circumstances, and in ‘hands-on’ versions where their hands must always be on the wheel. More drivers preferred the hands-on version of the features.

Likewise, some versions of automatic lane switching give the driver more control than others. In driver-initiated versions, the driver must physically activate each lane change. With vehicle-initiated versions, the vehicle software determines when to perform a lane change and does not require the driver to do anything to begin the manoeuvre. Drivers overwhelmingly preferred that the function be initiated by the driver.

The study also demonstrated a high level of acceptance of different types of driver monitoring, a fundamental part of the safety classifications IIHS is developing for partial automation systems. Regardless of whether the feature in question allowed for hands-free operation or whether the driver’s hands had to remain on the wheel, a majority of drivers said they would be comfortable with all three driver-tracking strategies featured in the study. treated: sensors on the steering wheel, a camera that tracks what the driver does with their hands, or a camera aimed at their face that tracks where they look.

“The drivers most familiar with all types of driver monitoring tended to say they would feel safer if they knew the vehicle was watching them to make sure they were using the feature properly. were using,” Mueller says. “That suggests communicating the security reasons for monitoring may help address consumer concerns about privacy or other concerns.”

Many drivers agreed that hands-free lane centering would make driving more stressful than the hands-on version. Those who indicated that they still prefer hands-free lane centering were most enthusiastic about all types of driver monitoring. Many of those drivers said the hands-free function would make driving safer and more comfortable. However, some of them also expressed an intent to abuse the technology, saying that hands-free lane centering would give them more opportunity to do other things while driving. Such responses illustrate the consumer’s unclear understanding of the limits of partial automation.

Those who preferred hands-on lane centering seemed to feel more strongly about it than those who preferred hands-free. Of drivers who wanted to use the feature, about two-thirds of those who preferred hands-on lane centering or had no preference for which type they used said they would buy a vehicle with a hands-on version, but less than the half said they would buy a hands-free version. In contrast, more than three-quarters of drivers who preferred hands-free lane centering said they would buy a vehicle with a hands-on or hands-free version of the feature.

More than half of the drivers surveyed said they would be at least somewhat likely to buy a vehicle with some form of automatic lane change if price wasn’t an issue. Of those who preferred driver- or vehicle-initiated automated lane-changing, most said they’d like a hands-on version — including many who preferred hands-free lane centering.

“It may come as a surprise to some people, but it seems that partially automated features that require the driver to have their hands on the wheel are actually closer to one-size-fits-all than hands-free designs,” Mueller says.


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