Hype around automated cars is dangerously confusing drivers says Euro NCAP

  • October 19, 2018

One in 10 drivers would be tempted to have a nap while using a so-called ‘Highway Assist’ system, such as Adaptive Cruise Control, according to new research published this month alongside new Euro NCAP tests of cars featuring advanced driver assistance systems.  In a separate briefing, also published this month, ETSC has called on the European Commission to set out plans for addressing the risks of driver over-reliance on automated systems and reiterated that there needs to be much more transparency around the approval process for new features such as lane change assistance.

The #TestingAutomation study from Euro NCAP, Global NCAP and Thatcham Research discovered potentially dangerous false impressions around the safe usage of highway assist technologies with names such as “Autopilot” and “Pro Pilot”.

Matthew Avery, Director of Research at Thatcham said: “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, but it is fuelling consumer confusion. This is exacerbated by some systems doing too much for the driver, who ends up disengaged.

“Our message is that today’s technology supports the driver. It is not Automated Driving and it is not to be relied upon at the expense of driver attentiveness. The driver is in control and must always remain alert. If used correctly Highway Assist systems will improve road safety and reduce fatalities, but they won’t if naming and marketing convinces drivers that the car can take care of itself.”

Key findings from the study include:

  • 7 in 10 (71%) drivers globally (53% in the UK) believe that they can purchase a car that can drive itself today;
  • 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 lack of driver training and standardised controls, symbols and names for these features, is further muddying the waters for consumers,” said Avery. Most drivers agreed, with 74% saying that all new car models should have standardised conventions for features such as Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping aids.

Euro NCAP has also released assessments of the assistance technologies in ten new cars, to help consumers better understand the limits of the systems.

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.”

ETSC’s new briefing, published in response to a new strategy on automation published by the European Commission in May calls on EU policymakers to:

  • Ensure the adoption of proven life-saving technologies such as AEB, ISA and LKA by supporting the Commission’s proposal revising the General Safety Regulation for motor vehicles;
  • Improve the transparency of the exemption procedure for the approval of new vehicle technologies;
  • Examine the risks posed by drivers’ overreliance and lack of understanding of the capabilities and limitations of level 2 systems, and ensure that all drivers are well informed;
  • Present a comprehensive approach to the type approval and market surveillance of automated/autonomous vehicles as well as vehicles with automated driving technologies on board. This approach should ensure that an automated vehicle will pass a comprehensive test equivalent to a ‘driving test’ and show that it performs at a level at least as high as the best human drivers on the road;
  • Support independent research to identify the best solutions for the design of clear internal and external HMI as well as research into the safety implications of driver dis-engagement and re-engagement during automated driving.

Euro NCAP research: https://www.euroncap.com/en/vehicle-safety/safety-campaigns/2018-automated-driving-tests/

ETSC Briefing: EU Strategy for Automated Mobility: https://etsc.eu/briefing-eu-strategy-for-automated-mobility/