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Most automated driving systems are not making drivers pay attention

DETROIT (AP) – Most electronic systems that take on some driving tasks for humans don’t adequately make sure drivers are paying attention, and they don’t issue strong enough warnings or take other actions to make drivers behave, according to an insurance industry study published recently.
Only one of 14 partially automated systems tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) performed well enough to get an overall “acceptable” rating. Two others were rated “marginal”, while the rest were rated “poor”. No system received the top rating of “good”.
“Most of them don’t include adequate measures to prevent misuse and keep drivers from losing focus on what’s happening on the road,” said IIHS President David Harkey.
The institute, Harkey said, came up with the new ratings to get automakers to follow standards, including how closely they watch drivers and how fast the cars issue warnings if drivers aren’t paying attention.
It also says it is trying to fill a “regulatory void” left by inaction on the systems from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Harkey said the agency needs to do more to set standards for the systems, which are not able to drive vehicles themselves.
A message was left seeking comment from the agency.
IIHS safety ratings are closely followed by automakers, which often make changes to comply with them.
The 14 systems, which include several variations from single automakers, are among the most sophisticated now on the market, Harkey said.
Only one of the systems, Teammate in the Lexus LS, earned the adequate rating. General Motors’ Super Cruise in the GMC Sierra and Nissan’s Pro-Pilot Assist with Navi-Link in the Ariya electric vehicle were rated marginal.
Other systems from Nissan, Tesla, BMW, Ford, Genesis, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo were rated poor.
Harkey said the driving systems initially were combinations of safety features such as automatic emergency braking, lane departure warnings, lane centering and blind-spot detection. But now they give drivers the chance to not pay attention for some period of time, raising safety risks, he said in an interview.
“That’s why the focus is on how do we make sure that the driver remains focused on the driving task,” Harkey said.
Some automakers, he said, market the systems in a way that drivers could think they are fully autonomous.
“The one thing we do not want is for drivers to misinterpret what these things can or cannot do,” he said.
The systems, IIHS said, should be able to see if a driver’s head or eyes are not directed on the road, and whether their hands are on the wheel or ready to grab it if necessary.
The institute also said if a system doesn’t see a driver’s eyes on the road or hands aren’t ready to steer, there should be audible and visual alerts within 10 seconds. Before 20 seconds, the system should add a third alert or start an emergency procedure to slow down the vehicle, the institute said.
Automakers should also make sure safety systems such as seat belts and automatic emergency braking are activated before the driving systems can be used, it said.
None of the 14 systems met all the driver monitoring requirements in the test, but Ford’s came close, the group said.

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