It's Time To Crack Down On Semi-Autonomous Safety Ratings

Technology / 3 Comments

The IIHS has announced a new rating system to better regulate these systems.

In mankind's relentless pursuit of efficiency, technologies such as autonomous driving and AI have become the new frontier, and like any new experiment, semi-autonomous driving tech has been fraught with danger. Manufacturers such as Tesla have been at the forefront of the semiautonomous revolution, but have faced severe criticism due to the fact that its cars have caused several serious accidents and even a few deaths. Big players like Audi still think that fully autonomous driving is a pipe dream, but the fact of the matter is that companies are going to continue to push the new tech, and it needs to be regulated and rated, and that's exactly what the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is planning to do.

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The IIHS is busy developing a new ratings program that will evaluate the safety protocols employed in cars with partial automation, and will follow its usual crash test ratings of good, acceptable, marginal, or poor. The new system will rate how capable the safety protocols are at keeping the driver's attention focused on the road. According to the IIHS, to earn a good rating, the systems will need to ensure that the driver's eyes are on the road, and their hands on or ready to grab the steering wheel at a moment's notice. Alerts and emergency procedures for when the driver does not meet those requirements will also be rated.

"Partial automation systems may make long drives seem like less of a burden, but there is no evidence that they make driving safer. In fact, the opposite may be the case if systems lack adequate safeguards," says IIHS President David Harkey.

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Consumer Reports has also announced that it will be awarding points for partially automated driving systems if they have adequate monitoring systems in place, and will also be taking the IIHS ratings into account before issuing a score. While many manufacturers have been talking a big game about the autonomous abilities of their cars, fully autonomous vehicles are yet to be introduced, and as it stands, even cars capable of partially autonomous driving such as the Tesla Model 3 and Porsche Taycan among many others don't yet meet the incoming IIHS criteria. The fact that people are constantly trying to cheat their cars into thinking they're actively concentrating behind the wheel isn't helping.

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"The way many of these systems operate gives people the impression that they're capable of doing more than they really are," says IIHS Research Scientist Alexandra Mueller. "But even when drivers understand the limitations of partial automation, their minds can still wander. As humans, it's harder for us to remain vigilant when we're watching and waiting for a problem to occur than it is when we're doing all the driving ourselves."

The IIHS plans to implement the new rating system in 2022, which will bring some much-needed regulation to a corner of the automotive industry that is seemingly being run by tech cowboys.

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