The organization, which is funded by the car insurance industry, recommended increased monitoring of drivers to ensure they’re engaged, prohibiting automated lane changing and restricting the use of these systems to the roads they’re designed for. It warned that when too much of the driving shifts away from humans, they stop paying attention and fail to control their vehicle.
“We thought it was time to put these recommendations down on paper,” Harkey told CNN Business. “Let’s make sure these systems are designed in a way that maximizes safety and do not create unintended consequences.”
Harkey’s organization is sharing its recommendations with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with the hope that it will form the basis of future regulations. The NHTSA said in a statement that it will review the IIHS report and that it recommends developers of systems, like Autopilot and Super Cruise, “incorporate appropriate driver-vehicle interaction strategies.” However, the NHTS did not elaborate on what those strategies might be.
Among other things, the IIHS report calls for tracking drivers’ engagement levels using a combination of measures, including eye movements, blinking, head tilt, steering wheel input, and the speed of responses to alerts.
IIHS said there are limitations to relying on a single measure for tracking drivers’ engagement. Tesla’s Autopilot monitors solely steering wheel torque; GM’s Super Cruise uses only eye-tracking.
A disengaged driver might absentmindedly tap the steering wheel, the organization said. And eye tracking is difficult to monitor in vehicles today, they said, because the systems must be calibrated to each individual driver.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A GM spokeswoman said that Super Cruise uses an infrared camera to determine where the driver is looking and delivers an escalating series of prompts if the driver’s attention should return to the road.
IIHS also recommended prohibiting automated lane changes, a feature on Autopilot and one that was recently added to Super Cruise. Harkey said that automated lane changes risk creating an unsafe environment because drivers are less engaged.
The institute also said drivers should only be able to activate partially self-driving systems on roads for which they were designed. Some systems use GPS and other mapping technologies to identify the roadway.
GM, for example, restricts Super Cruise’s usage to select highways. Tesla says that Autopilot is intended for use only on highways and limited-access roads. It says drivers should not use it on city streets, construction zones or areas where bicyclists or pedestrians may be present. But Tesla drivers can turn on and use Autopilot on a wide range of roads.