Tesla’s recall of nearly 363,000 vehicles equipped with its “Full Self-Driving” feature has drawn attention to a more widespread problem with the ways partial automation systems are designed and marketed, according to the President of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), David Harkey.
Harkey stated that partial automation systems require drivers to be fully engaged in the driving task at all times and to take control of the vehicle when necessary. However, research conducted by the Institute shows that many drivers who use partial automation systems frequently treat their vehicles as if they are fully autonomous, despite numerous high-profile crash reports and warnings to the contrary.
None of the current partial automation systems are designed to replace a human driver or make it safe for drivers to perform other activities that take their focus off the road, Harkey said.
He added that “fully attentive drivers” could prevent their vehicles from performing the actions cited in Tesla’s recall notice. The main issues with Tesla’s Full Self-Driving system include misleading names such as “Full Self-Driving” and “Autopilot” and a lack of adequate safeguards to ensure drivers remain focused on the road.
IIHS has been developing a new safeguard ratings program to assess how well partial automation vehicles keep drivers engaged in the driving task, and the program will begin rating vehicles later this year.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently issued a recall notice for certain Tesla Model 3, Model S, Model X, and Model Y vehicles after determining that the Full Self-Driving Beta system could prompt the vehicle to travel straight through intersections from a left- or right-turn-only lane, fail to stop at stop signs, exceed speed limits, and go through yellow lights without proper caution if the driver did not intervene.
The Full Self-Driving feature is an optional software update that extends the functionality of Tesla’s core Autopilot partial automation system, which is primarily intended for use on highways.