Assisted driving name blame
Before being dismissed as a Luddite, I admit to being a cautious admirer of systems that are intended to make driving both easier and safer, especially from a technical point of view. Yet, production cars are not fully-autonomous, even though one might think that they are able to drive themselves.
In their quest to be less demanding on the driver, I argue that degrees of driver-assistance systems have been fitted to cars for years. From the removal of manual ignition advance/retard controls from the steering column on pre-war vehicles, through to the increasing popularity of the automatic gearbox, power-assisted steering, cruise control and anti-skid systems all becoming virtually universal, technology has sought to make the car more user-friendly, by taking away some of the effort expended by the driver.
Yet, the increasing pace of electronics has seen motorcar development accelerate. While adding a camera and/or radar (which is likely to be supplemented by GPS mapping in the near future) has, quite literally, given the car ‘eyes’, it has heralded a number of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that build upon the older technologies mentioned earlier. These include not only auto-dip matrix headlamps but also auto-brake and distance cruise capabilities. By linking these systems together to other functions in the car, all of which are monitored and controlled electronically (such as Electric Power Steering), the car can, quite literally, drive itself – but the fully-autonomous car is far from a safe reality even though this seems not to be realised by many drivers.
Thatcham Research and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) have called for greater clarity around the capability of vehicles sold with assisted driving technologies, due to incidents being blamed on drivers being over-reliant on the technology, with Thatcham reporting:
“We are starting to see real-life examples of the hazardous situations that occur when motorists expect the car to drive and function on its own. Specifically, where the technology is taking ownership of more and more of the driving task but the motorists may not be sufficiently aware that they are still required to take back control in problematic circumstances.”
Marketing to blame?
Thatcham blames carmakers for their promotional and naming policies. It highlights nomenclature, such as ‘Autopilot’ and ‘ProPilot’ as unclear terms that infer that the car can do more than it can.
The ABI advises that, drivers need to remain alert and be ready to take back control at all times. More tellingly, it revealed that the insurance industry is ready to hold manufacturers to account, if they are irresponsible in their descriptions of what a vehicle can do.
If you are looking to buy a new car and are confused about the technologies, not only ask your salesman to explain but also consult Thatcham’s advice document, which should provide a degree of clarity. Crucially, never forget that these systems should not replace your own skill and judgement.