The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has announced a new set of ratings aimed at evaluating the built-in safeguards used to by automakers to ensure drivers stay focused on the road while using their semi-autonomous driving features.
The agency decided upon four ratings for the new system – good, acceptable, marginal, and poor.
To achieve a good rating, the system must ensure drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands either on the wheel, or close enough that they can take over control of the vehicle at any moment.
The system must also issue escalating alerts and appropriate emergency procedures when the driver is found to be not paying attention.
IIHS expects to issue their first ratings at some point this year, but has not given a timeframe due to difficulties obtaining vehicles because of ongoing supply chain issues.
Alexandra Mueller is the IIHS Research Scientist behind the new rating system. She says it will help reset people’s perceptions of driver-assist systems that may oversell their capabilities through how they operate.
“The way many of these systems operate gives people the impression that they’re capable of doing more than they really are,” Mueller says. “But even when drivers understand the limitations of partial automation, their minds can still wander. As humans, it’s harder for us to remain vigilant when we’re watching and waiting for a problem to occur than it is when we’re doing all the driving ourselves.”
Depending on how exactly criteria such as monitoring hand position and automated lane change confirmations are measured, it appears Autopilot will not meet at least 2 of the criteria required for a good rating.
Requirements for a good partial automation safeguard rating
Monitors both the driver’s gaze and hand position
Uses multiple types of rapidly escalating alerts to get driver’s attention
Fail-safe procedure slows vehicle, notifies manufacturer and keeps automation off limits for remainder of drive
Automated lane changes must be initiated or confirmed by the driver
Adaptive cruise control does not automatically resume after a lengthy stop or if the driver is not looking at the road
Lane centering does not discourage steering by driver
Automation features cannot be used with seat belt unfastened
Automation features cannot be used with automatic emergency braking or lane departure prevention/warning disabled