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IIHS says automated car tech confusing to consumers

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Super Cruise from General Motors allows hands-free driving on highways only with the caveat that your eyes must remain on the road and the driver must be prepared to take over at any time. (Image courtesy of General Motors)

Systems designed to make driving more automated have created a cloud of confusion for drivers, the IIHS found.

The insurance industry-funded IIHS surveyed 2,000 drivers to understand how the branding names of systems affect the technology's perceived effectiveness. The results released last week show many discrepancies in how consumers understand the systems.

Additionally, the organization looked at information displayed on a gauge cluster to understand if automakers are providing the right information for semi-automated driving systems.



The IIHS asked the 2,000 surveyed consumers about five different Level 2 self-driving systems. Level 2 refers to cars that can control steering and speed simultaneously, without driver interaction for short periods of time, but still require full attentiveness and include Cadillac's Super Cruise, Tesla's Autopilot, Traffic Jam Assist from Audi and Acura, Driving Assistant Plus from BMW, and ProPilot Assist from Nissan. Participants weren't told what automaker uses each system.

CHECK OUT: What are the different levels of self-driving cars?

Survey respondents placed the most misguided trust in Autopilot. Nearly 50 percent of those surveyed thought that the Tesla system would allow them to take their hands off of the wheel while the system is active. That's compared to 33 percent or less for the other systems. The Tesla system also produced the highest percentages of people who thought it would be fine to text, watch a movie, take in the scenery, and even nap while engaged.

Moving to the gauge cluster, the IIHS used a 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class with the automaker's Drive Pilot system. The organization noted the E-Class' cluster is representative of many other automakers' displays when showing automated tech functions. Here, 80 people viewed videos of the system and were asked to identify the operating status of the adaptive cruise control and lane centering systems and explain what was happening. Forty people received some training about the system, while the other half completed the exercise with no advance understanding of the system.



READ THIS: AAA wants to standardize active safety tech names

Although almost every person identified when the adaptive cruise control system automatically adjusted speed or detected another car in front of it, but the IIHS said most couldn't understand why the system didn't detect a vehicle ahead when it was too far away to register. Further, most didn't know when lane centering was not active, save for the group that received some training. However, even then, the training group couldn't explain why the system was inactive in the situation. In these cases, drivers need to be totally ready to take full control of the vehicle again and perhaps brake.

While it remains to be seen how automakers will provide information for automated system in the future, AAA has already tackled the problem of naming and branding. The firm wants to standardize names for nine popular driver assistance systems, which are branded dozens of different ways brand-by-brand.

With regards to automated driving assistance systems, AAA found 40 percent of Americans expect technology like Tesla Autopilot and Nissan ProPilot Assist to deliver fully self-driving cars.

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