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!