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Automotive Autonomous Cars

With an autonomous vehicle, do you need to learn how to drive?

With new research suggesting self-driving systems can lead to driver complacency – how do you introduce new technology in a way that’s safe?

Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) are supposed to make the experience of being behind the wheel safer and more pleasurable – yet, a recent study found self-driving features led to worse driving once they were turned off and humans retook control.

What impact do results like these have on the development and acceptance of autonomous technologies?

Switching back to the driver

The study conducted this year at the UK’s University of Nottingham asked drivers to take back control after a period of using the self-driving feature for simulated travel on highways and in congestion.

The research found that after participants took back control, driving was poor. They swerved across lanes and varied speeds in the period immediately after handover. On the first day of the study, drivers went off course by an average of two meters.

While performance improved throughout the week, researchers said, drivers became more complacent leading to concerns about them being ‘out of the loop’ when relieved of decision-making or having to monitor goings-on. They also said concerns existed about drivers not being prepared to take back control in emergencies.

HERE Electronic Horizon is embedded software that ingests detailed road network information from the cloud to help the vehicle’s advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) make more intelligent and informed decisions without driver involvement.

So, is it safe?

If the public is going to embrace self-driving features and, eventually, fully autonomous vehicles, the technology has to earn their trust.

To achieve that, it has to be completely safe. It’s likely that in the early days, drivers of semi-autonomous vehicles will probably need to take back control in certain situations – and they’ll need to be prepared to do that.

Yet, if researchers find that driving gets worse - even complacent - in this scenario, perhaps it's a pretty damning verdict? How do we introduce technology that’s ultimately going to enhance safety with short-term complications like these?

Well, there might be light at the end of that tunnel. Two years ago, a report from the UK parliament’s Lords Science and Technology Committee looked at similar issues around driver and pedestrian complacency. It concluded that more comprehensive testing needed to take place to research the development of autonomous vehicles.

That’s the key point. Testing is needed not just to make the technology safe, but to understand how drivers and pedestrians react. Once established, this information can be used to create a better understanding of how autonomous vehicles work and how we can bring them safely into our lives.

Does ADAS make you a worse driver?

It sounds like one of those questions that get asked whenever a new technology comes along. Do search engines make you worse at remembering? Do maps make you worse at finding your way?

What we can learn from these examples is that humans are adaptable, we learn new behaviors all the time based on our experience of the world. The adoption of ADAS and self-driving cars shouldn’t be any different. First, we need understanding, then we’ll plan and adapt.

Of course, innovation isn’t always a smooth progression – and we shouldn’t take lightly those barriers we encounter along the way. Like many other organizations, HERE is working hard to make safety and comfort an absolute priority.

Yet, the prospect of safer and more enjoyable journeys, cheaper insurance, greater vehicle efficiency and sustainability are things about which we should get excited.

How do you feel about the prospect of self-driving vehicles? Please let us know in the comments.

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