Don’t doze and drive: Drivers are dangerously confused by autonomy, says Thatcham

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Author: | Updated: 18 Oct 2018 17:15

It’s pretty safe to say some form of fully autonomous vehicle will make it on to the UK’s road network in the not-too-far-away future. But a new survey has revealed 71% of drivers believe that autonomous cars are already on the market.

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The astonishing figure was revealed by Euro NCAP and Thatcham Research, that are concerned there are some worrying misconceptions about what driver assistance technologies currently available are actually capable of.

The survey found that one in 10 drivers believe it would be acceptable to have a nap while using Highway Assist systems, such as Adaptive Cruise Control. Thatcham has warned that these false impressions could have a potentially dangerous consequences in the coming years.

Managed impact at the Thatcham Research test track

Matthew Avery, Director of Research at Thatcham Research comments, “Some carmakers are designing and marketing vehicles in such a way that drivers believe they can relinquish control. Carmakers want to gain competitive edge by referring to ‘self-driving’ or ‘semi-autonomous’ capability in their marketing[3], but it is fuelling consumer confusion. This is exacerbated by some systems doing too much for the driver, who ends up disengaged.

Other key findings of the report included:

  • One in five (18%) British motorists think that a car marketed as being capable of automatic steering, braking and acceleration allows them to “sit back and relax and let the car do the driving”
  • Many respondents said that they would be tempted to break the law while using an Assisted Driving system by texting on a mobile phone (34%), making a hand-held call (33%) or having a brief nap (11%)
  • Only half (51%) of drivers believe they would be liable in the event of a crash when using Assisted Driving systems.
    • The top three brands drivers believe sell fully self-driving cars today are: Tesla (40%), BMW (27%) and Audi (21%)

    Euro NCAP has revealed a series of new assessments comparing the performance of assistance technologies already on the market. The test cars were made up of the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, DS 7 Crossback, Ford Focus, Hyundai NEXO, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S, Toyota Corolla and the Volvo V60.

    While some of the models, such as the new Ford Focus received positive feedback, Euro NCAP is keen to stress that no car on the market today offers full automation, and driver assistance systems should not be confused with autonomous capability.

    Michiel van Ratingen, Euro NCAP Secretary General said, “Euro NCAP’s message from these tests is clear - cars, even those with advanced driver assistance systems, need a vigilant, attentive driver behind the wheel at all times. It is imperative that state-of-the-art passive and active safety systems remain available in the background as a vital safety backup.”

    The warning follows another report by Thatcham, that suggested some car makers are misleading consumers about the capabilities of driver-assist systems. What do you think? Are we being misled by the word “autonomous”?

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