eCars, Electric cars, eMobility

Semi-autonomous cars harbor more dangers

Semi-autonomous cars harbor more dangers
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Christian Boas

Modern cars include more and more autonomous systems such as lane keeping assistants and cruise control: Soon, people will probably only sit as watchdogs at the wheel of largely autonomous vehicles to intervene in exceptional situations.

“We are not good at this monitoring function,” warns Daniël Heikoop, behavioral psychologist at the TU Delft.

Because this largely passive role has a drowsing effect, as shown by practical tests with a Tesla.

Current Tesla models offer an autopilot, which takes the human driver almost everything. This is exactly what could become the standard scenario for the near future, before truly fully autonomous vehicles become everyday without a driver. However, the role of the passive controller at the wheel carries a serious risk, according to Heikopp.

“That’s extremely boring. People are not good at it, “explains Heikopp.

This is exactly what has been shown in experiments with a Tesla in Coventry. In the course of these experiments, drivers watched an autopilot-operated Tesla on the highway for 35 minutes. Measurements of subjects’ heartbeats and eye movements have shown that they slow down – people were practically nodding. Even with experiments with a driving simulator have observed this phenomenon. The drivers, who are not completely awake, in the case of the cases can not react very fast, is obvious.

Growing challenge
In this case, semi-autonomous vehicles could sometimes demand even more from human drivers than would be the case with self-driving. In order to promote the traffic flow, for example, cars with corresponding assistance systems can keep a small distance, as the human reaction time actually requires. In addition, people are not prepared to monitor largely autonomous cars.

“They do not know what to look for, because they do not understand how an autonomous car works, what it can and can not see,” says Daniël Heikoop.

“The situation we are heading for, where people drive highly automated cars that still need surveillance, is dangerous,” warns the behavioral psychologist.

It might be better to skip this phase altogether and wait for cars to drive fully autonomously. But this still requires advances over the current state of the art, such as sensors that are not as susceptible to interference from too bright sunlight, mud or snow.

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