It seems that drivers in a vehicle with partial automation are becoming too comfortable and treating their cars like it's fully self-driving, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
There are only a few cars that offer partial autonomy, but there is a change in the driving habits of people behind the wheel in a car with Tesla Autopilot, Nissan/Infiniti ProPILOT, or Cadillac Super Cruise. Drivers can become easily distracted by texting, eating, or some other activity that raises safety risks.
It looks like proPILOT drivers were the least worrying, with 12% of drivers willing to treat their car as fully self-driving. However, 53% of Super Cruise users and 42 percent of Autopilot users treat their semi-autonomous vehicles as fully self-driving.
Unfortunately, overconfidence in any of the platforms confuses drivers on the realistic expectations of each program's limits. The IIHS is worried system design and marketing campaigns are causing a major discrepancy in the three different semi-autonomous user groups.
As explained by Alexandra Mueller, a research scientist at IIHS:
"These results from frequent users of three different partial automation systems once again drive home the need for robust, multifaceted safeguards. 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."
Mueller served as the lead architect on the Institute's safeguards ratings program.
Although each of the three systems has embedded sensors in the steering wheel, the Super Cruise allows a driver's hands to be removed from the wheel. The other two systems force drivers to make sure their hands are always on the steering wheel. Both Autopilot and Super Cruise have driver-facing cameras that are able to detect if a driver is looking forward.
Tesla is careful to warn drivers that its autopilot is not fully autonomous, and drivers still need to be alert and active as they observe the road. Both Cadillac and Nissan/Infiniti also promote their technologies as driver-assist and drivers still must be in control.