The list of autonomous driving features in today’s cars continues to grow with each new model year. Many of those features are designed to keep us safe, but a recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study shows drivers aren’t entirely confident in how well they work. Systems that prevent drivers from drifting out of their lane are particularly untrustworthy.
- Autonomous features that accelerate and decelerate with traffic did well.
- Lane-centering technology proved troublesome.
- If drivers don’t trust the tech, then they’re less likely to give it a chance.
Autonomous features should inspire confidence, but instead they’re doing the reverse. (Photo: Getty Images)
Is this thing on?
The IIHS conducted a survey involving 20 employees who volunteered to drive one of two routes near the company’s offices in Virginia. One route was urban while the other was more rural.
The vehicles selected for the test included a 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300, 2019 Infiniti QX50, 2018 Volvo S90, 2017 BMW 530i, and 2016 Tesla Model S. Each was equipped with adaptive cruise control and lane-centering technologies.
Roughly 75 percent of participants found the automated systems accelerated and decelerated smoothly and had no trouble detecting moving vehicles ahead. The problem came in detecting lane markings and stopped vehicles ahead. Here, less than 50 percent thought the technologies worked well.
Also a concern was knowing if a system was even detecting lane markings on the road. Once again, less than 50 percent of participants could tell if these autonomous systems could see road markings well enough to operate. That uncertainty further eroded confidence.
Even when the systems worked, they didn’t always work well. Complaints including taking curves too wide or too tight and offering too much resistance when the driver tried to steer the vehicle back into its lane. The more rural the route, the more trouble these systems had and the less confidence they inspired in the driver.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Autonomous driving technologies are here and they’re making roads safer for all of us. The challenge is they’re not perfect, which makes drivers nervous. Putting imperfect systems out there now slows the implementation of new and better systems by losing the public’s trust and their willingness to give new technologies a chance.