Trust in autonomous driving technology is increasing – that might become a problem.
The question is: will humans lose the ability of driving a car once autonomous vehicles are fully established? And how do semi-autonomous cars affect our driving skills?
The dangers of automation
Automated vehicle acceptance is on the way up, especially driving assistance system like the emergency break or the stop-and-go assistant for motorways are desired by customers. But the recent trend bears the risk that on one day the drivers’ laziness may exceed their safety awareness.
Nevertheless the human behind the wheel won’t be irreplaceable for a couple of years. We are still far away from reaching full level automation. Even if technology is ready for mass production manual driven cars won’t disappear from one day to another. The transition period might become a dangerous one due to the encounter of humans and autonomous vehicles.
The fatal crash of a Tesla driver in the USA illustrated that pretty clearly. We now know that the accident was caused by the driver as he ignored the vehicle’s warnings. Nobody knows the exact reason for the driver’s behavior, probably he was side-tracked. The case shattered many people’s trust in Tesla and revealed a well-founded concern of the industry.
Distraction & traffic cause more accidents
According to US authorities the number of fatal accidents steadily increased in the US since 2014. Many experts are blaming the use of smartphones in traffic for the latest numbers because it can distract both drivers and pedestrians. But also driver assistance systems bear risk potential. If the confidence in technology is getting too high, drivers will be less attentive and responsive.
A study conducted by Bloomberg showed that many people see a decrease of their driving skills due to safety systems. The University of Michigan also found out that drivers tend to neglect the quick glance over the shoulder once they are used to a dead angle assistant. If you suddenly enter a vehicle without driver assistance, the old habits may become an accident risk.
How do manufacturers react?
In order to cope with these problems manufacturers like Tesla or General Motors are introducing driver surveillance functions. If the driver appears to be inattentive the car activates the autopilot. Researchers and government also demand accurate system designations. Tesla’s semi-autonomous system is called “Autopilot” – that might lead to disastrous misunderstandings.
About the author:
David Fluhr is journalist and owner of the digital magazine “Autonomes Fahren & Co”. He is reporting regularly about trends and technologies in the fields Autonomous Driving, HMI, Telematics and Robotics. Link to his site: http://www.autonomes-fahren.de