A new survey conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that drivers prefer safety systems with less automation, which assume greater control over vehicle operation.
IIHS researchers conducted a nationwide survey of more than 1,000 drivers, focusing on three common safety and driver assistance techniques: lane focusing, automatic lane changing and driver monitoring.
“Automakers often assume that drivers want as much technology as they can get into their vehicles,” says Alexandra Muller, the survey’s primary designer. “But few studies have examined anecdotal consumer opinion about partial driving automation.”
Lane centering technology typically works with lane keeping systems to keep the vehicle in the center of the lane. It is a next generation technology that evolved to address the ping pong effect that was a hallmark of many early lane keeping systems.
Automatic lane change technology works with blind spot monitoring (with or without collision assist) and adaptive cruise control, allowing the vehicle to switch lanes at the behest of the driver when certain criteria are met and it is controlled by the system. Safe in outlook. So.
Driver monitoring systems use cameras and sensors to detect certain head, eye, and hand movements that indicate the driver is not paying attention to the road ahead, and by using a range of audio and visual signals alerts them to this fact. If attention is lacking for long periods of time, many of these systems purposefully fail and require the driver to take the wheel in order to operate the vehicle safely.
The IIHS survey showed that customer interest in the three types of technologies is strong, however, they prefer them to be only partially automated, allowing drivers to remain engaged with the driving experience. This engagement includes “hands on” versions of the technologies rather than “hands off”.
For example, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class will initiate a lane change on command, driving itself into the next lane over. Drivers in the survey preferred that the system allows the driver to initiate the change on his own, while the system works to ensure that the coast is clear to do so.
The survey also showed that drivers have higher tolerances for many different types of driver monitoring technology, including those that require the driver’s hands to remain at the wheel.
“Drivers who were most comfortable with all types of driver monitoring said they would feel safe knowing that the vehicle was monitoring them so they could use the feature properly,” Muller said. “This suggests that communicating the security rationale for monitoring can help reduce consumer concerns about privacy or other objections.”
Survey respondents mostly agreed that hands-free lane focusing technology, such as can be had with Ford BlueCruise and General Motors Super Cruise systems, would make driving safer and more comfortable. However, some expressed concern about the misuse of the technology, saying it would give drivers an opportunity to disconnect from the happenings around them and focus on other tasks.
IIHS says these concerns “reflect customers’ vague understanding of the limits of partial automation”.
More than half of the drivers surveyed said they were “somewhat” likely to buy a vehicle with some form of automatic lane changing technology if price was not an issue.