Recent research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that drivers using partial automation systems are often overly reliant on them, even treating them like full autopilot features. According to a report by Reuters, the industry group’s survey found specifically that users of Tesla Autopilot, General Motors Super Cruise, and Nissan/Infiniti ProPILOT Assist “said they were more likely to perform non-driving-related activities like eating or texting while using their partial automation systems than while driving unassisted.”
Breaking down the 600 respondents by vehicle model, the IIHS survey found that 53% of Super Cruise users “said that they were comfortable treating their vehicles as fully self-driving.” For Autopilot users, that figure was 42%; for ProPILOT Assist users, it was 12%. “The big-picture message here is that the early adopters of these systems still have a poor understanding of the technology’s limits,” The IIHS’s president, David Harkney, said in a statement about the findings.
As a report by CNN stresses, none of these driver assistance systems are full self-driving features. Rather, they “combine adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping systems, primarily to keep a car in a lane and following traffic on the highway.” Drivers using them must still pay attention to road conditions and assume control of the vehicle when necessary. The IIHS study shows that drivers improperly treat them as self-driving systems in spite of manufacturer warnings that they are not.
“These results from frequent users of three different partial automation systems once again drive home the need for robust, multifaceted safeguards,” said the study’s author in a statement. “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.”
An analysis by Streetsblog highlights one interesting revelation in the IIHS’s data: “the majority of those reckless car pilots are men.” Specifically, more than 50% of Super Cruise and Autopilot users who participated in the survey were men, while “ProPILOT owners broke down along normal demographic lines.”
More information on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s findings that users of driver assistance technologies treat them as self-driving systems is available via the IIHS, Reuters, CNN, and Streetsblog.