Article written by A. Mufit Ferman, Ph .D., Sharp Laboratories of America, Inc., Robolliance Expert
Since the introduction of the modern cruise control in the Chrysler Imperial in 1958, automobile manufacturers have launched innovative technologies to ease the burden on the driver and prevent accidents. Especially in the last twenty years, driver-assist systems have become more commonplace in cars. Active cruise control, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, collision warning/prevention, and automatic parking are increasingly offered as standard features on many vehicles.
While some of these systems are for driver convenience, the majority are designed to prevent accidents and reduce traffic fatalities. It is, therefore, critical that drivers are properly educated about the capabilities and limitations of such systems. A recent AAA study, however, reveals the associated challenges - drivers are largely unaware of the differences between the various automatic emergency braking systems that are currently available1. According to the study, two-thirds of the drivers who are familiar with emergency breaking technology assume that all such systems work to autonomously prevent crashes. In reality, some systems are designed to prevent a crash, while others merely aim to lessen its severity. At highway speeds, the latter systems are only marginally effective in reducing vehicle speed.
The significance of educating the public about autonomous and semi-autonomous driving technologies is highlighted by the fatal crash of a Tesla Model S in May 20162. Tesla's semi-autonomous driving mode - also named, like the first cruise control system, Autopilot - is designed to take over many of the driver's responsibilities.
Tesla promotes Autopilot as a redundant safety system that augments the driver's capabilities; there are, however, many examples on the internet of drivers letting Autopilot assume full control, while they engage in other activities. In fact, many automakers believe that systems, like Autopilot, may lessen driver engagement and reduce the driver's ability to react in an emergency. To eliminate such risks, companies like Ford and Volvo, have chosen to focus on more traditional driver-assist systems, while they develop fully autonomous, driverless vehicles of the future3.
Another AAA study shows that the public is not completely ready to embrace self-driving vehicles - 75% of U.S. drivers stated that they are afraid to ride in a self-driving car4. On the other hand, the same study found that experience with semi-autonomous features significantly increases a driver's trust in the technology. Educating drivers about the differences between various, semi-autonomous vehicle technologies is, therefore, critical in increasing acceptance and adoption.
1 "Hit The Brakes: Not All Self-Braking Cars Designed to Stop", by Erin Stepp
2 "A Tesla Driver Died in a Crash While His Car Was on Autopilot", by Will Oremus
3 "Is Autopilot a Bad Idea?", by Will Oremus
4 "Three-Quarters of Americans “Afraid” to Ride in a Self-Driving Vehicle", by Erin Stepp