A car is not an iPhone – Educating your customers in regards to driving assistance is a crucial task

Cha­ris­ma­tic Elon Musk hard­ly falls short on crea­ting public atten­ti­on. About two years ago, he announ­ced a pro­mi­sin­gly high vehi­cle crash rate reduc­tion with their Auto­steer sys­tem instal­led.

Accord­ing to recent reports, the under­ly­ing data and cal­cu­la­ti­ons offe­red by the US Natio­nal High­way Traf­fic Safe­ty Admi­nis­tra­ti­on (NHTSA) were fun­da­ment­al­ly fla­wed inclu­ding cal­cu­la­ti­on with nega­ti­ve mileages dri­ven and cras­hes repor­ted without Auto­steer while the car was stan­ding still. New cal­cu­la­ti­ons con­clu­de that around a 50% increa­se in cras­hes with activa­ted auto­steer is a more rea­listic num­ber.

This howe­ver says litt­le about the qua­li­ty of the tech­no­lo­gy as such. It much rather points to a cru­ci­al issue for dri­vers. After all, users regu­lar­ly con­fu­se their dri­ving assi­s­tan­ce sys­tems with auto­ma­ted dri­ving sys­tems and beco­me less atten­ti­ve while they actual­ly should still be moni­to­ring the sys­tem.

We live in a user-fri­end­ly socie­ty whe­re ever­y­thing is deve­lo­ping into a seam­less expe­ri­ence. The end users do not worry about sys­tem fail­u­res or how to fix them. If some­thing is not working, we return the pro­duct and get a new one – Simp­le! While this is extre­me­ly con­ve­ni­ent, we as users also quick­ly lose the abi­li­ty to debug or inter­act with today’s tech­no­lo­gies bey­ond inten­ded usa­ge. While this might be fine for a mobi­le pho­ne in your pocket, a car is a dif­fe­rent sto­ry.

Dri­vers often do not under­stand the com­ple­xi­ty of the dri­ving assi­s­tan­ce fea­tures the new car models offer and con­se­quent­ly are not able to esti­ma­te when they might fail. Over­ly rely­ing on an assis­ting sys­tem as an auto­ma­ted sys­tem regu­lar­ly leads to cras­hes whe­re the dri­ver is not able to take over con­trol quick­ly enough. We recei­ve repeated reports on ‘dis­il­lu­sio­ned custo­mers’ that had to learn the dif­fe­rence bet­ween a dri­ving assi­stant sys­tem, sup­porting the dri­ver, and an auto­ma­ted sys­tem, taking over the con­trol of the car, the hard way (see for examp­le cbsnews.com for a recent, yet to be inves­ti­ga­ted inci­dent).

Over­all, this may be the cur­se of high, yet not ful­ly auto­no­mous cars: Moni­to­ring a sys­tem that might requi­re you to take over the con­trol of the car at any time is an almost impos­si­ble task. Eit­her dri­vers shift away their atten­ti­on or beco­me increa­singly slee­py – both redu­cing their abi­li­ty to take over quick­ly. While legis­la­ti­on in many coun­tries is clear about the respon­si­bi­li­ties, dri­vers behave dif­fer­ent­ly in pra­xis.

Working towards eit­her making the dri­vers under­stand how and in what situa­ti­ons a sys­tem might fail or set­ting clear traf­fic sce­n­a­ri­os like stop and go traf­fic on a high­way whe­re the sys­tem must deli­ver without poten­ti­al dis­en­ga­ge­ments, is an important task. The­re are many pos­si­ble solu­ti­ons but it is the respon­si­bi­li­ty of many to make them rea­li­ty and ensu­re that new dri­ving tech­no­lo­gies can deli­ver their pro­mi­se of redu­cing acci­dent rates rather than increa­sing them.

We are hap­py to sup­port on that pro­cess!


Rainer Hoffmann

Seni­or Part­ner



Andreas Gabriels

Head of
Busi­ness Intel­li­gence



Benjamin Scher

Stra­te­gy &
Inno­va­ti­on Con­sul­tant