Self-driving cabin (via iStock)

New survey on ADAS and self-driving by The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in America raises questions for UK legislators and motorists

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Who wants self-driving anyway? US survey finds 80% love ADAS but not hands-free

A new survey on full and partial self-driving by The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in America has found significant mistrust of automated lane changing systems, with drivers preferring to stay hands-on and initiate the manoeuvre themselves.

The IIHS – a respected non-profit educational organization dedicated to reducing deaths from motor vehicle crashes – surveyed over 1,000 drivers on questions related to partial automation between September and October 2021, with the results published in June 2022.

The headline finding was that 80% wanted to use “at least some form of lane centering” – a strong endorsement for what we Brits call automated lane keeping systems (ALKS).

Report covers ADAS & ADS

IIHS report on consumer demand for ADAS and self-driving June 2022
IIHS report on consumer demand for ADAS and self-driving June 2022

36% preferred “hands-on-wheel” lane keeping, compared to 27% for “hands-free”, with 18% having no preference between the two types, 16% not wanting to use any form of lane keeping and 4% being unsure.

If you think that shows an appreciation of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) but a mistrust of conditionally automated driving systems (ADS), the next finding appears to confirm that.

Asked about lane changing assistance (as opposed to just lane keeping), 73% said they would use some form of auto lane change. However, 45% said they’d prefer to use driver-initiated auto lane change compared to only 14% for vehicle-initiated auto lane change. 23% said they wouldn’t use either type, 13% had no preference and 5% were unsure.

What’s more, on self-driving technology, 35% said they found it “extremely appealing” while 23% said it was “not at all appealing”.

Alexandra Mueller, the IIHS survey’s primary designer, commented: “Automakers often assume that drivers want as much technology as they can get in their vehicles. But few studies have examined actual consumer opinions about partial driving automation.

“It may come as a surprise to some people, but it appears that partially automated features that require the driver’s hands to be on the wheel are actually closer to one-size-fits-all than hands-free designs.”

Another eye-catching finding was the high number of people “at least somewhat comfortable” with in-cabin driver monitoring to support such systems: 70% for steering wheel sensors, 59% for camera monitoring of driver hands and 57% for camera monitoring of driver gaze.

“The drivers who were the most comfortable with all types of driver monitoring tended to say they would feel safer knowing that the vehicle was monitoring them to ensure they were using the feature properly,” said Mueller.

“That suggests that communicating the safety rationale for monitoring may help to ease consumers’ concerns about privacy or other objections.”

Self-driving questions

For us, the study is particularly interesting in terms of the UK government’s plan to list vehicles approved under the Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) Regulation as self-driving.

For the drivers of certain new high tech cars, this could be the first time that any hands-free driving becomes legal on UK roads. The current suggestion is for this to be restricted to slow motorway traffic (max 37mph), initially at least.

Further still, the acceptance of driver monitoring seems relevant to point four of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Connected and Automated Mobility’s seven expert recommended red lines: “Establish minimum standards for data sharing and handling to ensure transparency and effective governance”. 

The full IIHS report is available here.

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Author: Neil Kennett

Neil is MD of Featurebank Ltd. He launched in 2019.