Automated driving ‘hype’ is ‘dangerously confusing’ drivers: Thatcham Research

07.46 | 19 October 2018 | | | 4 comments

71% of drivers around the world believe they can purchase a self-driving car right now, according to new research published on 17 October.

This ‘astonishing’ finding is one of many ‘worrying’ perceptions uncovered by the #TestingAutomation study, commissioned by Thatcham Research, Euro NCAP and Global NCAP – which also showed that one in 10 drivers would be tempted to have a nap while using a so-called ‘Highway Assist’ system, such as Adaptive Cruise Control.

Findings from the study include:

  • 7 in 10 (71%) drivers globally and 53% in the UK believe that they can purchase a car today that can drive itself
  • One in five (18%) British motorists think that a car marketed as being capable of automatic steering, braking and acceleration allows them to ‘sit back and relax and let the car do the driving’
  • Many respondents said that they would be tempted to break the law while using an assisted driving system by texting on a mobile phone (34%), making a hand-held call (33%) or having a brief nap (11%)
  • Only half (51%) of drivers believe they would be liable in the event of a crash when using assisted driving systems.

Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research, said: “Some carmakers are designing and marketing vehicles in such a way that drivers believe they can relinquish control.

“Carmakers want to gain competitive edge by referring to ‘self-driving’ or ‘semi-autonomous’ capability in their marketing, but it is fuelling consumer confusion. This is exacerbated by some systems doing too much for the driver, who ends up disengaged.

“Our message is that today’s technology supports the driver. It is not automated driving and it is not to be relied upon at the expense of driver attentiveness.

“The driver is in control and must always remain alert. If used correctly highway assist systems will improve road safety and reduce fatalities, but they won’t if naming and marketing convinces drivers that the car can take care of itself.”


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    I would suggest that any car purchase is informed by a clear agreement on what extras are available, and which have been purchased/rejected. I would further suggest that all safety features purchased are explained in a way that is governed by an industry standard (rather than left to the selling agent’s whims. No briefing, no keys.

    Peter Whitfield, liverpool
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    Once again we are at the mercy of what big tech tells us what we should or should not be buying. I don’t expect Road Safety GB to understand this technology, because they have a limited knowledge on road safety with normal cars.

    But understand this, a technology that cannot anticipate is a death trap.

    Equivalent to crossing the road blindfolded at a pedestrian crossing – expecting cars to stop.

    Every single car journey is different, therefore, no amount of testing will ever make this technology safe.

    Alberto, Bedford
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    Are we surprised. Are the collision stats going to go up or down? Some of the electronics have been introduced into some cars for a number of years and some are now nearly 10 years old. Is it going to be the next boondoggle? We will have to wait and see.

    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    A higher percentage than I suspected, however the gullibility of some people seems to have no bounds.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

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