Letter: Safety Concerns over Driver Overreliance on Lane Change Assist Systems

  • May 24, 2018

Earlier this year, technical requirements for “lane change assist” systems were finalised at UNECE level in Geneva. These rules are expected to be integrated into EU law within a few months, which would enable manufacturers to sell cars fitted with such systems on the European market.

According to the agreed UNECE requirements, such lane change assist systems will only be required to verify whether it is safe to conduct a lane change by checking to the rear of the vehicle; it is expected the driver will check in front and to the side of their vehicle.

ETSC questions whether all drivers of such vehicles will be aware that the system is a driver assist system i.e. whereby the driver remains responsible for fully monitoring the driving environment.  ETSC also questions how drivers will be made aware that the system does not check ahead or alongside the vehicle.   ETSC considers that there is a risk of drivers initiating lane changes without having checked in front and to the side of their vehicles as they may have expected the system to have done this.

This technology is exemplary of a more general concern around the safety risks resulting from driver overestimation of the abilities and limitations of advanced driver assist and semi-automated systems installed in their vehicles.

Drivers’ overreliance and lack of understanding of the limitations of “Level 2” automated systems have already contributed to several fatal collisions, such as the fatal crash of a Tesla in May 2016.

With the UNECE rules expected to be integrated into EU law, ETSC has posed the following questions to the European Commission:

  1. Has the Commission examined the perception by drivers of the abilities and limitations of different advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) and what safety risks are posed by driver overestimations?
  2. What regulatory measures has the Commission taken or will it take to ensure that drivers of vehicles with advanced driver assist systems on-board are properly informed about the systems’ abilities and limitations as well as their responsibilities as driver?
  3. How will the Commission ensure that all potential drivers are informed about the systems’ abilities and limitations, and not merely the purchaser of the vehicle i.e. when taking delivery of a new vehicle? Other drivers may include other family members, rental car drivers, second-hand purchasers etc.