Autonomous Tech Dangerously Confusing Motorists, Study Says

ADAS and automated driver systems are confusing motorists to a dangerous degree, latest research suggests.

A study commissioned by auto safety specialists including Thatcham Research, Euro NCAP and Global NCAP, reveals that 71% of drivers globally believe they can purchase a self-driving car right now. The finding could lead to owners trusting too much to technology they do not understand, experts suggest, even leading to one in 10 drivers being tempted to have a nap while using a so-called ‘Highway Assist’ system, such as adaptive cruise control.

The #TestingAutomation study, also found the top brands believes to have full Level 5 autonomy Tesla with 40% believing it was self driving followed by BMW at 27% and Audi at 21%. Nearly 1,600 motorists from China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and US were included in the study.

Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research said: “Some carmakers are designing and marketing vehicles in such a way that drivers believe they can relinquish control. Carmakers want to gain competitive edge by referring to ‘self-driving’ or ‘semi-autonomous’ capability in their marketing but it is fueling consumer confusion. This is exacerbated by some systems doing too much for the driver, who ends up disengaged.

“Our message is that today’s technology supports the driver. It is not automated driving and it is not to be relied upon at the expense of driver attentiveness. The driver is in control and must always remain alert. If used correctly highway assist systems will improve road safety and reduce fatalities but they won’t if naming and marketing convinces drivers that the car can take care of itself.”

Further worrying statistics include 18% of UK motorists believing that a car marketed as being capable of automatic steering, braking and acceleration allows them to “sit back and relax and let the car do the driving”. At the same time only 51% of drivers surveyed believe they would be liable in the event of a crash when using assisted driving systems.

“The lack of driver training and standardized controls, symbols and names for these features, is further muddying the waters for consumers,” suggested Avery. Most drivers agreed, with 74% saying that all new car models should have standardized conventions for features such as adaptive cruise control and lane keeping aids. In addition, 77% said they would be happy to watch a short training video or take an online course to better understand the functionality and limitations of a new car’s assisted driving technologies.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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