- The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has issued three recommendations to ensure driver-assist and self-driving technology is safer.
- The insurance-industry nonprofit said it’s a problem that the systems currently available don’t require drivers to have their hands on the steering wheel.
- The recommendations follow increased scrutiny of the driver-assist tech on the market.
As driver-assist systems have been integrated into cars, the technology has been under scrutiny by regulatory bodies, including Congress and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Now, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a nonprofit funded by auto insurance companies, has issued its own recommendations for driver-assist systems. Not too surprisingly, the report says the technology should keep the person behind the wheel physically and mentally engaged with the act of driving at all times.
“Unfortunately, the more sophisticated and reliable automation becomes, the more difficult it is for drivers to stay focused on what the vehicle is doing,” David Harkey, IIHS president, said in the recommendation. “That’s why systems should be designed to keep drivers actively engaged.”
Several recent crashes involving autonomous and driver-assist technology have led to unprecedented levels of scrutiny in recent months. One such crash involved a Tesla Model X which was found to have had Autopilot engaged when it crashed, killing the driver. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that the driver was playing a game on his phone when the car was engaged in Autopilot.
The Institute says that the current Level Two autonomous systems make it too easy for drivers to lose focus on the road and let the technology do all the work. IIHS sees it as an issue that some systems only require a driver’s hands on the steering wheel to continue operating instead of using multiple ways of checking that the driver is paying attention.
Level Two systems, the highest level that’s legal on cars today, include systems such as Tesla’s Autopilot and Cadillac Super Cruise systems that can control acceleration, steering, and braking. It’s a problem that many drivers see Level Two automation as practically self-driving, according to IIHS. In order to keep drivers attentive, IIHS says there are three things that driver-assist systems need to include: multiple methods to monitor the driver, such as a driver-facing camera; the ability to sense manual adjustments of the steering wheel and how quickly the driver responds; and, if the system senses that the driver isn’t paying attention, a series of alerts should go off depending on whether the driver regains focus on the road.
As IIHS put it in the report, “Just because technology can accomplish certain tasks that humans usually perform, that doesn’t mean it should.”