The Internet is rife with examples of people's misuse of Tesla's Autopilot system, and for the most part, it's pretty clear that
it's the humans who are the problem
, and not the machines.
But a pair of new studies performed by the
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
(IIHS) and funded by insurance companies suggest that your average driver's knowledge about autonomous features is lacking.
What's more, some of the terms and names used by automakers may be adding to the confusion.
'Current levels of automation could potentially improve safety,' said IIHS President David Harkey. 'However, unless drivers have a certain amount of knowledge and comprehension, these new features also have the potential to create new risks.'
One study tested how well people understand the messages communicated by autonomous system displays, while the other measured the impact of the names used by brands on driver comprehension.
For the latter survey, over 2,000 drivers were asked a series of questions about a handful of Level 2 system names like Audi and Acura's Traffic Jam Assist, Cadillac's Super Cruise, Nissan's ProPilot Assist, BMW's Driving Assist Plus and Tesla's Autopilot. Participants weren't given the manufacturer, only the system name, and then asked to play a little game of Is It Safe?
According to the study, 48 per cent of people polled thought it'd be safe to take their hands off the wheel while using Tesla's Autopilot. It's not.
Only Cadillac's Super Cruise, which uses eye-tracking tech to measure driver attentiveness, doesn't require the driver's hands to stay on the wheel. (Not that the whole 'hands on the wheel' thing has stopped Tesla drivers from doing
all sorts of other things with their hands off the wheel
—the system can be fooled.)
Tesla's system wasn't the only that sparked confusion either. Thirty-three per cent of respondents thought it'd be cool to take their hands off the wheel with Nissan's ProPilot Assist activated. For BMW's Driving Assist Plus, that number was 27 per cent.
This Tesla owner tested his car's Autopilot auto-braking on his soon-to-be-ex-wife
YouTube moron films himself in Tesla on Autopilot with no one at the wheel
Participants were also asked about talking on the phone, texting, watching a movie and taking a nap, all of which are obviously a no-go for any of the systems.
Again, Tesla's Autopilot was the most misunderstood, with 34 per cent claiming they'd take a call, 16 per cent willing to text, 8 per cent ready to watch a movie, and 6 per cent
believing falling asleep behind the wheel
wouldn't be an issue so long as Autopilot was on.
Naturally, Tesla defends its system and its name.
'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 in a statement. 'If IIHS is opposed to the name 'Autopilot,' presumably they are equally opposed to the name 'Automobile.'