IIHS Develops New Rating System for Partially-Autonomous Vehicles
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released a new rating system for vehicles sold with partial automation, setting a new standard for automakers to pass.
The new guidelines require vehicles with these partially-autonomous processes, like Tesla’s Autopilot and Volvo’s Pilot Assist, to put additional safeguards in place. The purpose of these safeguards is to help drivers stay focussed on the road. Currently, no vehicle on the market is capable of passing these new ratings.
The IIHS is worried people may treat partially-autonomous vehicles as fully-autonomous. This, in turn, will cause a decrease in awareness and an increase in unsafe driving practices.
"We are worried that these systems are advertised to do certain things, such as drive hands-free and perhaps become disengaged from driving," said David Harkey, IIHS President. "There is a message being conveyed to consumers that perhaps these systems can do more than they are intended to."
Vehicles will be put through the new rating program and receive one of four scores: good, acceptable, marginal or poor. The top score, good, requires a vehicle to have systems in place to monitor driver engagement, such as keeping hands on the steering, looking at the road ahead and automated lane changes being initiated by the driver. “Good” systems will also be able to lock drivers from using partial automation if their seatbelt is unfastened.
In tandem, the vehicle’s systems must be able to alert drivers when they’re not fully engaged; the vehicle must be able to slow to a crawl or stop if the driver fails to respond. From there, the vehicle will be able to contact emergency services if necessary and lock the driver out from the system until the vehicle is restarted. According to the IIHS, evidence shows the more types of alerts a driver receives, the more likely the driver is to respond to them.
The most common point of failure for current vehicles on the market is hand-monitoring and autonomous lane changes. The IIHS believes these changes should not be difficult for manufacturers to correct or implement.
"For some of these things, they are fixes that can be implemented quickly through software," Harkey said. "We are encouraged that the automakers will address some of these problems rather quickly."
While many of these requirements cannot directly force drivers to focus, the IIHS recognizes, they can allow the driver to take control of the vehicle quickly if needed. On top of safety, the other goal of this initiative is to create a dialogue between manufacturers and customers about autonomous driving-- both what it means to create a vehicle with said capabilities and the responsibilities that come with operating a partially-autonomous vehicle.
The IIHS has stated that the first bout of ratings is expected to take place sometime this year.