RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Many new cars are coming equipped with automation systems designed to help drivers, but safety advocates say many of these systems are being misused by drivers.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also says some warning systems for semi-autonomous vehicles also are poorly designed and don’t provide drivers with adequate safety measures to prevent misuse.
When you drive a vehicle there’s a lot to think about including watching the road, keeping your hands on the wheel, staying in your lane and watching your stopping distance.
The IIHS says some drivers think their semiautonomous vehicle will take over the job of doing those driving functions, but they are wrong.
“These are driver assistance systems not driver replacement systems,” said IIHS President David Harkey.
Systems like adaptive cruise control, which automatically changes speed to keep a safe distance between vehicles, or lane-centering systems, make some drivers feel like their vehicle can drive itself when in fact it can’t.
Harkey says the marketing of these systems, especially in television commercials, plays a role in the misuse of those systems by drivers.
“What they portray in terms of how these systems can be used is critical to educating consumers,” he said.
All these systems come with warnings to drivers, but the way the warnings work varies as does the time elapsed before those warnings kick in.
To help give purchasers a better idea of what warning systems work well and which don’t, IIHS says it is going to begin rating those systems and their warnings as part of its upcoming crashworthiness tests.
Towards that end, the IIHS has developed a series of recommendations.
“One of our recommendations is to have an escalating series of warnings that are audible, visual, and haptic to make sure that drivers know they need to take control of the vehicle,” said Harkey.
To obtain a good safety rating for a vehicle, the IIHS will also require:
Adaptive cruise control which won’t automatically resume after a lengthy stop or if the driver isn’t looking at the road
Automation features that can’t be enabled if seatbelts are unfastened.
A requirement that automation features cannot be used if automatic emergency braking and lane departures warnings are disabled
“We do not want them to misuse the technology, intentionally or unintentionally,” said Harkey. “This is a real safety concern, and we need to address it today.”
Safety advocates like the IIHS liken all the various driver assistance and warnings systems to the wild west, with every carmaker doing what it wants with no thought about standardization or deciding how they should be implemented.
Harkey says the government should step in to regulate how these systems should work, but he has no idea if or when that may happen.