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  • Dean Smith

Autonomous Vehicles Not So Autonomous? Drivers Still Need to Pay Attention

Autonomous vehicle makers are in the hot seat, as a report highlighted the May 2016 crash of a Tesla Inc. Model S, equipped with the Autopilot feature, that subsequently killed a driver. Although automakers are taking measures to ensure that drivers are alert by using tiny cameras, sensors to track drooping heads, steering wheel monitors and audible alerts, it is evident that unless a car is capable of driving itself safely in every single situation, drivers still need to pay attention and take control of the vehicle at any given moment.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and an article by Insurance Journal, drivers keep their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road for extended periods despite the warnings. For example, the aforementioned Tesla crash showed that the driver only kept his hands on the wheel for 1-3 second intervals for 37 minutes of the entire 41-minute trip, even after multiple visual and audible warnings.

It seems as though drivers are using the Driver Assistance technology as a full replacement for driving altogether, when in reality, most systems are not made for that purpose. General Motors Co driver assistance technology called Super Cruise, Volkswagen AG’s luxury Audi system, and Tesla’s new restrictions put in place after the accident, now disable the system and/or bring the vehicles to a stop if the driver does not respond to its warnings.

However, according to Insurance Journal, Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo unit is busy devising a self-driving system that focuses its efforts on FULLY autonomous vehicles rather than driver assistance, where humans take absolutely no actions in driving.

Do these “autonomous” vehicles give drivers a false sense of security?

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