As technology advances, the prospect of driverless cars on roadways is closer to becoming a reality. Some vehicles are already semi-autonomous, such as Teslas which are equipped with an Autopilot system.
The Autopilot feature and similar systems allows the car to partially take over some driving functions, but does the name cause drivers to think it does more than its capable of? A new study suggests that it does.
The Autopilot system
The survey, conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, found that half of respondents thought Tesla’s Autopilot was safe to drive without hands on the wheel.
Though it’s called “Autopilot,” it’s more of a brand name than a literal description. Autopilot takes over accelerating, braking and steering responsibility within a lane, but drivers are meant to keep both hands on the steering wheel and remain alert. However, not everyone follows through on that.
A deceptive name?
Perhaps the biggest issue is in the name itself. Drivers seem to believe it is capable of more than it is. Police have pulled over drunk drivers asleep at the wheel as their Tesla’s Autopilot system drives them down the road, and at least four people have died while the feature was engaged.
In March, a Tesla Model 3 collided with a semi-truck in Florida, killing its driver. It’s similar to an accident in 2016, where an investigation found that the driver, who died in the crash, was watching a movie at the time of the accident. The investigation results prompted Consumer Reports to request that Tesla replace the name Autopilot, arguing it confused drivers. The president of IIHS has warned car manufacturers to be wary of giving systems deceiving names for the sake of drivers’ safety.
Remaining alert behind the wheel
Though vehicles are equipped with self-driving features, it is important to remember that the road still requires your full attention. Fully autonomous vehicles are still a long way away from being on the roads. Staying alert behind the wheel can preserve your safety and the safety of drivers around you.