Your average person doesn’t really understand what autonomous car technologies do, and slick marketing from automakers is complicating things further. That’s the conclusion of some new studies performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). If that’s not disturbing, you’re not thinking enough about the consequences.
When it came to marketing, IIHS specifically focused on how the names of different autonomous systems affect misconceptions by the public. Autopilot was especially singled out, because the name suggests drivers “can turn their thoughts and eyes elsewhere.” A larger portion of people surveyed believed Autopilot allowed drivers to not pay attention to the car or the road at all versus competing autonomous systems.
Autopilot is an amazing technology, but some people seem to have missed the warnings about staying aware of your surroundings. Several Tesla drivers have been caught literally sleeping at the wheel with Autopilot on, while others have recklessly climbed into the backseat.
IIHS uncovered another troubling trend: people don’t understand the vehicle warnings displayed on gauge cluster and infotainment screens. While the level of understanding was better with training, that didn’t completely eliminate misunderstandings. Essentially, that means the systems are confusing, and no the problem isn’t humans. Instead, automakers need to do a better job of creating self-driving systems that are more intuitive to use.