DETROIT, Mich.–Automakers like Audi, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, GM’s Cadillac, Nissan and Tesla have advanced driver assistance systems that are robust enough to take the sting out of that daily highway commute by handling some driving tasks. The problem: Drivers don’t understand the limitations of these systems, according to two new studies released Thursday by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Confusion around advanced driver assistance system is widespread, and especially when it comes to Tesla’s Autopilot system, according to one IIHS study.
The survey asked 2,005 people about five “Level 2” driving automation systems that are available in vehicles today, including Tesla’s Autopilot, the Traffic Jam Assist system in Audi and Acura vehicles, Cadillac’s Super Cruise, BMW’s Driving Assistant Plus and Nissan’s ProPilot Assist. Level 2 is defined by the ability to perform two or more parts of the driving task under supervision of the driver. The system, for example, can keep the car centered in a lane and have adaptive cruise control engaged at the same time.
Some 48% of the respondents said they believe it would be safe to take their hands off the wheel while using Autopilot, compared with 33% or less for other systems included in the survey. Autopilot also had substantially greater proportions of people who thought it would be safe to look at scenery, read a book, talk on a cellphone or text, IIHS said. And 6% thought it would be OK to take a nap while using Autopilot, compared with 3% for the other systems.
This survey was general by design. It wasn’t a survey of Tesla owners, people who would presumably have a better understanding of how Autopilot worked. And it’s in fact the argument that Tesla made in response to this study.
“This survey is not representative of the perceptions of Tesla owners or people who have experience using Autopilot, and it would be inaccurate to suggest as much,” Tesla said. “If IIHS is opposed to the name “Autopilot,” presumably they are equally opposed to the name “Automobile.”
The company continued that it provides owners with clear guidance on how to properly use Autopilot, as well as in-car instructions before they use the system and while the feature is in use. If a Tesla vehicle detects that a driver is not engaged while Autopilot is in use, the driver is prohibited from using it for that drive.