IIHS rating system for safeguards used in semi-autonomous vehicles announced

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.”

The IIHS said all current systems available to consumers do not meet their new criteria, with Tesla’s Autopilot, GM’s Super Cruise, and Volvo’s Pilot Assist all specifically mentioned by name.

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

    level-2 icon

  • Uses multiple types of rapidly escalating alerts to get driver’s attention

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  • Fail-safe procedure slows vehicle, notifies manufacturer and keeps automation off limits for remainder of drive

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  • Automated lane changes must be initiated or confirmed by the driver

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  • Adaptive cruise control does not automatically resume after a lengthy stop or if the driver is not looking at the road

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  • Lane centering does not discourage steering by driver

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  • Automation features cannot be used with seat belt unfastened

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  • Automation features cannot be used with automatic emergency braking or lane departure prevention/warning disabled

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