Autonomous auto features: Not quite ready for prime time

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Many car makers are introducing Level 2 autonomous features as options in new cars, but recent tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) show that not all these features may be ready for prime time - some of these features may put a driver at risk.

Many car makers are introducing Level 2 autonomous features as options in new cars – as a refresher, here is an explanation: Path to Autonomy: Self-Driving Car Levels 0 to 5 Explained/ Level 2 features are “partial automation.”

Recent tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) show that not all these features may be ready for prime time – some of these features may put a driver at risk. IIHS tested five Level 2 systems from Tesla, Mercedes, BMW and Volvo on a track and public roads, finding numerous failings.

IIHS know something about car safety. An independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization, it is dedicated to reducing losses — deaths, injuries and property damage — from motor vehicle crashes. It issues annual safety reports which often influence automakers and legislators alike in working to safer standards. IIHS is currently working towards a consumer rating system for advanced driver assistance systems.

The IIHS report on the autonomous feature tests – “Reality Check” – discusses the results. It says:

“IIHS can’t say yet which company has the safest implementation of Level 2 driver assistance, but it’s important to note that none of these vehicles are capable of driving safely on their own. The production vehicle that can safely drive itself anywhere, anytime isn’t available at the local car dealer and won’t be for quite some time.”

IIHS tests looked at whether the systems handle driving the way a human would:

“Not always, tests showed. When they didn’t perform as expected, the outcomes ranged from the irksome, such as too-cautious braking, to the dangerous, for example, veering toward the shoulder if sensors couldn’t detect lane lines.”

It’s great that IIHS is putting its expertise to evaluating these systems, which ultimately may contribute to increased highway safety. But the tests show that automakers still have work to do and that humans who buy autos with such features need to be cautious about over-reliance on autonomous features. Humans still play a critical role in driver safety!

More coverage on the report:

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