This explains why there are so many accidents unfairly attributed to Autopilot.
For most people that aren't car enthusiasts, the future of driving isn't really about driving. It's about getting around with as little effort and mental energy as possible. Fair. Not everyone is built to want to do a 200+ mph Autobahn blast. Some just want to cruise around in their Mustang Mach-E without being bothered. However, a recent study found that despite that, a concerning number of people aren't aware of the limitations of their car's Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).
Companies like Ford and, of course, Tesla, have put a lot of time and money into making this technology work. That's especially true of adaptive cruise control (ACC). It controls the following distance and speed of your car based on various sensors to help you cruise around without ever touching the pedals. Ford calls it Bluecruise, and Tesla calls its software Autopilot. but a recent report proved that this kind of tech makes us worse drivers and that has now been validated by another agency.
A study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drivers who bought cars equipped with ACC, like a Tesla Model 3, showed an improved understanding of the software after simply using it for around six months. However, users of the software failed to grasp the intricacies of the software when compared to those who had a short educational course on the software.
Moreover, AAA found that a "potentially dangerous sub-group of over-confident drivers" exists and that they failed to understand the software while also being overconfident in their knowledge of it. The study found that some falsely believe adaptive cruise systems would react to stationary objects on the road like debris or traffic cones. It also found that some believe the system will keep the car centered in its lane. To be fair, some systems, like Bluecurise and Autopilot do this, but it's typically a separate feature known as lane keep assist. Other participants also believed the system would work regardless of weather conditions.
A spokesperson for the agency stated that the learn-as-you-go approach simply doesn't cut it for systems like Bluecruise, or even less advanced ACC systems. AAA recommends taking the time to educate yourself about the limitations of ACC software to prevent any accidents. It also recommended requesting hands-on training at dealers and treating the software like it could fail at any moment.
The study urges automakers, researchers, and government agencies like the NHTSA to work together to understand consumers' relationship with new ADAS technologies. Computers are becoming ever-more integrated into cars, and convenience software like ACC will only continue to become more prominent. We'll have to wait and see if further regulatory measures are taken over the coming years.