The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) published data from a study related to advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) and driver awareness and engagement. The results are quite compelling, and actually the opposite of what IIHS and regulators have mentioned in the past.
While many people have concerns that Tesla Autopilot (currently a Level 2 system) may make drivers complacent, the IIHS study suggests that instead, Level 2 systems can work to increase drivers’ situational awareness.
Self-driving cars may come to market in the future. However, currently, many cars have ADAS that “help” drivers drive more safely. Some people think these systems will ultimately make drivers lazy, but they may actually make them more attentive and engaged. How so?
The IIHS test didn’t use a Tesla vehicle, but rather a 2019 Mercedes-Benz C300 with Level 2 ADAS technologies. The organization used a large pink teddy bear with a bright yellow jacket to try to learn if such systems increase driver attentiveness. The teddy bear was connected to the rear of a passing SUV, and IIHS paid close attention to the drivers’ situational awareness each time the SUV with the teddy bear passed by.
The study used drivers who have piloted a car with a Level 2 system in the past, as well as those who have not. The drivers drove the test car with the systems engaged, and also with the systems turned off.
Almost every driver with Level 2 driver-assist familiarity noticed the teddy bear and could recount how many times it passed. The same wasn’t true of people unfamiliar with driving a car with Level 2 driver-assistance systems.
IIHS explained in its study via Teslarati:
“Our data suggest that Level 2 driving automation has the potential to improve a driver’s situational awareness (SA) once he or she is familiar with the technology, although it does not guarantee it. Unfamiliar drivers, however, appear to have even more difficulty maintaining SA when using the system than when driving without it. On average, participants who were familiar with Level 2 systems showed the highest degree of SA about the bear when using the system, unfamiliar participants who drove with the system off had moderate SA, and unfamiliar participants who drove with the system on demonstrated the lowest SA.”
In the end, it seems people need experience with driver-assist systems before they are able to become more aware of their surroundings. However, once they are comfortable with the system, it allows them to pay more attention to the road ahead. Interestingly, an earlier IIHS study asserted that “Drivers let their focus slip as they get used to partial automation.”
Follow the source links below for more details about the study. Then, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.