New IIHS Rating Program Will Assess Safeguards on Semi-Autonomous Systems in U.S. Vehicles

In the U.S., more than five auto manufacturers offer semi-autonomous driving systems in their vehicles. Even though some of these driver assistance systems are not truly ‘hands-free,’ it has not stopped some reckless vehicle owners from abusing that privilege. Last month, the United States Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) made public a study with worrisome findings – drivers in the U.S. use semi-automated systems as though they were fully automated.
Cadillac semi-automated system 6 photos
General Motors Super CruiseGeneral Motors Ultra CruiseGeneral Motors Super CruiseGM's Super Cruise systemGM's Super Cruise system
We’ve done a ton of stories on Tesla drivers caught red-handed sleeping behind the wheel on the highway. These incidents have put automakers on the spot for not using better safeguards against the abuse of their systems.

On Tuesday, the IIHS, through a tweet, said they plan to introduce a rating program that’ll assess how vehicle manufacturers make sure that semi-automated systems in U.S. vehicles keep drivers vigilant when behind the wheel.

We plan to introduce a rating program soon that assesses how well automakers are implementing safeguards to keep drivers attuned to the road,” IIHS said in a tweet responding to an article by the European Transport Safety Council.

According to the study, the surveyed 600 active semi-autonomous system users admitted to abusing the systems as full self-driving in full knowledge they were not designed to work 100 percent autonomously.

It gets worse. The users (53% Cadillac Super Cruise, 42% Tesla Autopilot, and 12% Nissan ProPILOT Assist) said they were more likely to do non-driving related activities like eating or texting while using their semi-automated systems than when driving unassisted.

Here’s the truth. According to General Motors, Super Cruise is a “hands-free driver assistance feature” for use in ‘compatible highways’ (freeways and divided highways). Nissan says their ProPILOT Assist is a “hands-on driving assistant,” while Tesla claims their Autopilot feature is intended for use by a “fully attentive driver.

The rating system could work well to ensure safeguards are implemented. Still, automakers need to improve the system's functionality to curtail abuse. As the study reports, drivers are more likely to slack off on driving "if they think" the systems will offer some sort of assistance going down the road.

Editor's note: Images in the article are used for illustration purposes


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