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

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.

Reaction to first monthly NHTSA data on crashes involving vehicles with ADAS and ADS.

US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publishes first monthly report into ADAS and ADS crashes

On 15 June, the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published the first of what will be monthly reports into crashes involving vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and more advanced automated driving systems (ADS).

ADAS

In brief, for SAE Level 2 ADAS equipped vehicles, 367 crashes were reported from July 2021 to 15 May 2022, resulting in six fatalities and five cases of serious injury. Tesla reported the most, followed by Honda and Subaru.

Cue the headlines, “Tesla Autopilot and Other Driver-Assist Systems Linked to Hundreds of Crashes” in the New York Times and “Teslas running Autopilot involved in 273 crashes reported since last year” in the Washington Post.

However, the United States Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) shed light on this, explaining that “Teslas are connected to the internet and automatically report if the car was in Autopilot when it crashed. Honda asks its drivers if they were using ADAS, so it relies on hard-to-verify personal accounts. Everyone else leaves it up to the police report.”

ADS

For ADS, nearly all the data comes from California. 130 crashes were reported from July 2021 to 15 May 2022. One resulted in serious injury. Waymo reported the most incidents, followed by Transdev Alternative Solutions and then Cruise.

Reaction

Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Administrator, said: “The data released today are part of our commitment to transparency, accountability and public safety.

“New vehicle technologies have the potential to help prevent crashes, reduce crash severity and save lives, and the Department is interested in fostering technologies that are proven to do so; collecting this data is an important step in that effort.

“As we gather more data, NHTSA will be able to better identify any emerging risks or trends and learn more about how these technologies are performing in the real world.”

Autonomous vehicle safety consultant Philip Koopman welcomed the new data, commenting: “This is an excellent first step for transparency. All of us safety advocates can wish for more data and for less redaction, but this is a crucial step forward.

“If I had one wish, it would be to divide the narrative data field into two sections: public narrative and confidential narrative, and put huge pressure on the reporting companies to minimize things put into the confidential narrative.”

On this side of the pond, The Law Commission has recommended that automated vehicles must be able to record and store data necessary for incident investigation.

New reports predict self-driving will massively boost the global LiDAR market, with Aeva’s Aeries 4D LiDAR highlighted.

Self-driving to super charge global LiDAR market to US$3bn+ within 5 years

Two new reports have highlighted self-driving as one of the main factors predicted to boost the global LiDAR market to at least US$3.4 billion a year by 2026.

According to Polaris Market Research, the global automotive LiDAR market is anticipated to reach US$4.14bn by 2026, increasing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of more than 35%.

LiDAR for self-driving

The report summary noted: “The Automotive LiDAR market growth is attributed to the increasing demand of autonomous vehicles for active safety and self-driving. As advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicles are expected to witness growth at significant rates, it is expected to have a direct positive impact on the growth in the Automotive LiDAR market.

“These automated vehicles provide opportunities for a large number of firms to access a range of untapped facts, creating new revenue-generating opportunities, which will boost the market growth.

“The solid-state/flash LiDAR market is expected to grow at a very high pace during the forecast period. Solid state sensor being low-cost, robust, as well as compact in size makes it ideal for potential large-scale production of level 3 and level 4 cars in coming years. Further, mechanical sensors and other sensors also capture decent market share.”

Polaris highlight leading industry players including Scans, Velodyne LIDAR, Quanergy Systems, LeddarTech, First Sensor, Novariant, Delphi, Continental, Robert Bosch and Denso.

A separate report, by Markets And Markets, largely concurs with these findings, projecting that the LiDAR market will grow at a CAGR of 21.6% from 2021 to 2026 to reach US$3.4 billion by 2026.

LiDAR for UAVs

However, it focuses more on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – drones – and 4D LiDAR specifically.

“The rising adoption of LiDAR systems in UAVs, increasing adoption of LiDAR in engineering and construction applications, use of LiDAR in geographical information systems (GIS) applications, the emergence of 4D LiDAR, and easing of regulations related to the use of commercial drones in different applications are among the factors driving the growth of the LiDAR market,” it says.

“However, safety threats related to UAVs and autonomous cars and the easy availability of low-cost and lightweight photogrammetry systems are restraining the growth of the market.

“The market for 4D LiDAR is projected to grow at the highest CAGR from 2021 to 2026. This growth is attributed to the high adoption of 4D LiDAR in applications such as self-driving cars, robots, and other autonomous systems.

“Apart from automobiles, 4D LiDAR has applications in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry, entertainment, and AR/VR. Some of the major companies offering 4D LiDAR are Aeva and TetraVue.”

In March, sensing systems developer Aeva announced that its Aeries 4D LiDAR sensors are now supported on the Nvidia Drive autonomous vehicle platform.

As well as measuring distance and plotting the position of objects in x, y and z, Aeva’s 4D-LiDAR plots velocity as a fourth dimension.

Aeva CEO Soroush Salehian on self-driving
Aeva CEO Soroush Salehian on self-driving

Soroush Salehian, Co-Founder and CEO at Aeva (formerly of Apple’s Special Projects Group), said: “Bringing Aeva’s next generation 4D LiDAR to the Nvidia Drive platform is a leap forward for OEMs building the next generation of Level 3 and Level 4 autonomous vehicles.

“We believe Aeva’s sensors deliver superior capabilities that allow for autonomy in a broader operational design domain (ODD), and our unique features like Ultra Resolution surpass the sensing and perception capabilities of legacy sensors to help accelerate the realization of safe autonomous driving.”

Gary Hicok, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Nvidia, added: “Aeva delivers a unique advantage for perception in automated vehicles because it leverages per-point instant velocity information to detect and classify objects with higher confidence across longer ranges.

“With Aeva as part of our Drive ecosystem network, we can provide customers access to this next generation of sensing capabilities for safe autonomous driving.”

Thatcham, AXA and Mercedes-Benz Cars UK respond to Drive Pilot conditionally automated driving liability announcement

Conditionally automated: Thatcham and AXA respond to Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot liability announcement

Mercedes-Benz made global headlines in late March by taking the unusual step of announcing that it will accept legal responsibility for accidents caused by its Drive Pilot automated lane keeping system (ALKS).

The move followed the announcement, last December, that it had become the first vehicle manufacturer (VM) to meet the international UN-R157 standard for a Level 3 system, capable of “conditionally automated driving”.

Conditionally automated driving

Mercedes-Benz Cars UK was quick to emphasise that this currently only applies to Germany. “The system must safely perform the dynamic driving task when activated,” it said.

“However, the driver still has duties in public road traffic even during conditionally automated driving. It is true that they are allowed to temporarily turn away from traffic in Germany; however, they must, for example, resume the driving task at any time when requested to do so by the system.”

That sounds innocuous but it’s a major step on the road to self-driving. In cars equipped with this tech – reportedly to be available first on the new £83,000 S-Class – in Germany, where 13,000km of motorway are approved for Level 3, the car can do the driving. Just take that in.

In the UK, Thatcham is leading the development of a consumer safety rating to support the safe adoption of Automated Driving Systems (ADS).

Matthew Avery, Director of Research at Thatcham on automated driving
Matthew Avery, Director of Research at Thatcham

Matthew Avery, Director of Research at Thatcham, commented: “We’re pleased that Mercedes have made that statement, but it has to be seen in context. Firstly, the announcement was made for the German legal system, so you have to look at the legal onus on the driver to maintain control and be responsible.

“From a UK perspective, the recent Highway Code changes clarify that a bit more. It’s fairly clear within the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act (AEV Act) that the VM will ultimately be liable if their system is seen as being at fault.

“It comes back to understanding who was driving at the time of collision, and we’re not so happy that the data part is still slightly ambiguous. VMs are required to record who was driving at the time of the collision. However, it’s not clear that the data will be available in every collision, or how that data will be accessible to the insurer.

“What the Mercedes statement does do, which is helpful, is it gives confidence to the consumer that if something goes wrong, somebody will be there to pick up the bill.”

Doug Jenkins, Motor Technical Risk Manager at AXA Insurance UK, on automated driving
Doug Jenkins, Motor Technical Risk Manager at AXA Insurance UK

Doug Jenkins, Motor Technical Risk Manager at AXA Insurance UK, agrees. “On paper, the liability is clear,” he said. “But I think there is some work still to do – together – on how it would play out in practice.

“Let’s think about what happens in a claim: You’re lucky enough to be given one of these cars as a fleet vehicle and unfortunately you get sideswiped. There might well be a sticker on the windscreen with the number of an accident management company or fleet manager.

“The person who takes the first notification call will run through a script. They’ll ask what happened and you might say “They clipped me and took off the wing mirror”, you’re unlikely to say, “It was an issue with their lane assist system”.

“If it’s a sub-£5,000 claim, an accident management company might well just authorise the repair and arrange it via one of their approved repair centres. Job done. This Mercedes announcement means interfering with that very efficient process.

“We will need to develop the process of sign-off and how the costs are charged back – of course, these things will come as we get deeper into the deployment of automated vehicles.

“We’ve recently clarified our cover for electric vehicles (EVs), looking at things like cables trailing and chargers blowing up. These are new eventualities, but it’s just a case of changing the wording to respond to new customer needs.”

Please note: a version of this article was first published by the Institute of the Motor Industry’s MotorPro magazine.

Self-driving related highlights from Elon Musk’s keynote conversation at the FT Future of the Car Summit 2022

Elon Musk talks Twitter, Tesla and self-driving at FT Future of the Car Summit 2022

Following Volkswagen CEO, Herbert Diess, and Volvo Cars CEO, Jim Rowan, on day one of the FT Future of the Car Summit 2022, there was no doubting the biggest draw on day two: an hour-long “keynote conversation” with Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, covering Twitter, Tesla, SpaceX, self-driving and more.

The part live, part digital session was hosted by The Financial Times’ Global Motor Industry Correspondent, Peter Campbell, from The Brewery in London.

Tesla early days

It started with JB Straubel, formerly chief technical officer at Tesla, now Founder and CEO at renewable energy company Redwood Materials, joining Campbell on stage to discuss the origins of Tesla, with Musk contributing via video link.

JB Straubel and Elon Musk at FT Future of the Car Summit 2022
JB Straubel and Elon Musk at FT Future of the Car Summit 2022

EM: “We got together for lunch and the conversation turned to electric vehicles. JB said I should test drive the tzero prototype from AC Propulsion, that was in 2003. I tried to convince them to commercialise the tzero and, after a while, they said they really did not want to. I said, do you mind if I create a commercial electric sports car?”

JBS: “That’s pretty close to how I remember it. My perspective was us trying to chat with you about this electric hydrogen aeroplane concept, but our conversation completely turned to talking about lithium ion batteries… stringing together large numbers of small lithium ion batteries to potentially have hundreds of miles of range, which seems commonplace today, but in 2003 was absolutely unheard of. You understood that concept better than anyone else.”

They went on to cover the early work on a Lotus Elise chassis with the AC Propulsion drive train.

EM: “An insane nightmare, basically… almost everything about the first design of the Tesla Roadster was wrong. It was just an important thing that needed to happen to move to a sustainable technology future.

“At the time we created Tesla, there were no startups doing electric cars, and the big car companies had really no electric car programmes going. Therefore, unless we tried, they were not going to be created. It wasn’t from a standpoint of thinking, hey, here’s a super lucrative idea.

“There’s an incredibly big graveyard of car startups. They’ve almost all gone bankrupt. You’ve only heard of a tiny number of them, the DeLoreans of the world, but there are hundreds of others.

“The only two American car companies that have not yet gone bankrupt are Ford and Tesla. Tesla almost went bankrupt so many times I lost count. To start a car company is mega pain. It’s the furthest thing from easy money you could possibly imagine.

“The car industry is hyper competitive. Throughout the world, they have entrenched customers, dealers, service, factories, existing expertise – these are veteran armies.”

At this point, Straubel exited, leaving Campbell attempting to elicit answers about the widely rumoured purchase of Twitter. We’ll only cover that very briefly here.

Musk on Twitter

EM: “I think Twitter needs to be much more even handed. It currently has a strong liberal bias. This fails to build trust in the rest of the United States and also perhaps in other parts of the world.”

Peter Campbell and Elon Musk at FT Future of the Car Summit 2022
Peter Campbell and Elon Musk at FT Future of the Car Summit 2022

PC: “Are you planning to let Donald Trump back on?”

EM: “I’ve talked with Jack Dorsey about this. I have the same mind, which is that permanent bans should be extremely rare and really reserved for spam accounts, where there’s just no legitimacy. I do think that it was not correct to ban Donald Trump, I think that was mistake because it is alienating a large part of the country.”

20 million cars a year by 2030

Global media coverage assured, conversation returned to Tesla and the ambition to make 20 million cars a year by 2030.

EM: “There are approximately two billion cars and trucks in the world and for us to really make a dent in sustainable energy, in electrification, I think we need to replace at least 1% of the fleet per year, that’s where the 20 million units comes from. I think we’ve got a good chance of getting there.

“We have an incredible team at Tesla, executing very well and our annual growth rates are faster than for any large manufactured product in the history of Earth. I think the next fastest was the Model T. If that growth rate continues then we will reach 20 million vehicles a year, but we may stumble.”

On raw materials, he continued: “The two main cathode choices are nickel and phosphate. Iron is extremely plentiful and the second biggest element is oxygen. So, I do not see any fundamental scaling constraints. Lithium is also quite common.

“Our goal is to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy. The three pillars of a sustainable energy future are electric transport, stationary battery packs and sustainable energy sources – solar, wind, geothermal and hydro.

“All of Earth can easily be powered by solar and wind, stationary battery packs and electric transport. You could power all of Europe with a section of Spain, all of the United States with a corner of Utah or Texas. Obviously, it would make more sense to spread this out. I invite anyone to do the basic math in megawatts per square kilometre.”

They went on to talk about SpaceX, in particular the Falcon 9 rocket. Classic Musk: “I’m sure we’ll do more than 1,000 times the payload to orbit of all other rockets on Earth combined.”

Then, briefly, China, and the Tesla factory in Shanghai. Finally, with the hour flying by, they got to self-driving.

Musk on self-driving

EM: “I don’t think you need full human level intelligence to drive a car. You don’t need deep conceptual understanding of esoteric concepts or anything like that. Anyone who’s driven a car for any length of time, once you have some years of experience, the cognitive load on driving a car isn’t that high.

“You’re able to think about other things, listen to music, have a conversation and still drive safely. So, it’s not like matching everything a human does. It is matching enough of the silicon neural nets to at least be on a par with the biological neural nets to enable self-driving, and I think we’re quite close to achieving that. Don’t take my word for it, sign up for a beta programme, look at the videos people are posting.

“I’m confident we will get far in excess of the safety level of humans. Ultimately, probably a factor of 10 safer than a human, as measured by the probability of injury.

“It’s around a million people per year dying from automotive accidents, maybe 10 million per year are severely injured.  So, with autonomy, the cars driving, or assisted driving right now, but it will be fully autonomous the future, there’s those who didn’t realise they would have crashed, or hit a pedestrian or cyclist.

“It is important to note that we have never said ever that Tesla Autopilot does not require attention. We have always made that extremely clear, repeatedly. You can’t even turn it on without acknowledging that it requires supervision. We remind you of that ad nauseam, so this was not a case of setting expectations that the car can simply drive itself.”

It was Q&A time, so I submitted the question: “Why don’t you change the name of the Full Self-Driving package? It is driver assistance not self-driving. The name causes so much unnecessary criticism.” I didn’t get an answer.

Neil Kennett self-driving question for Elon Musk at FT Future of the Car Summit 2022
Neil Kennett self-driving question for Elon Musk at FT Future of the Car Summit 2022

To be fair, his hour was nearly done and questions from the audience were stacking up. Classily, he stayed on for a lengthy period of overtime.

Audience Q&A

Here are some of the highlights…

On micromobility: “Scooters are very dangerous. We don’t recommend anyone drive a scooter.”

On building a small car: “There’s some probability that Tesla will do a smaller car.”

On Tesla licencing their products to other OEMs: “They may be interested in licencing Tesla Autopilot full self driving. I think that would save a lot of lives. I would be very open to that.”

On competitors: “VW is doing the most on the electric vehicle front. There will be some very strong companies coming out of China.”

On AI: “We have the best real world AI team in the world.”

On the next big innovation in personal transportation: “Tunnels are underrated, underappreciated. This notion of induced demand is one of the single dumbest notions I’ve ever heard in my entire life. If adding roads just increases traffic, why don’t we delete them? Decrease traffic. I think you’d have uproar. We already have a proof of concept in Las Vegas with a tunnel going from the convention centre to the strip. It’s working really well.”

On super capacitors: “There simply isn’t enough ruthenium. I thought about it quite a lot. Had I continued as a student and done a PhD at Stanford, a theory I had at the time was to use advanced chipmaking equipment to build solid state capacitors.”

On hydrogen: “The number of times I’ve been asked about hydrogen! If you want a means of energy storage, hydrogen is a bad choice. It’s extremely low density, maintaining it in liquid form is incredibly difficult and it does not naturally occur on Earth. So, you either have to split water with electrolysis or crack hydrocarbons. It is the most dumb thing that I could possibly imagine for energy storage.”

And finally, on wanting to die on Mars: “I just said sure, but not on impact! Really, the goal on that front is making life multiplanetary… to preserve life as we know it, not just humans, but also the other animals and plants. So we don’t end up like the dinosaurs.

“You know, there will be natural calamities that occur on Earth – giant meteors and super volcanoes – and we can also do ourselves in, World War III is maybe looking a little bit more probable these days.

“So, I think it’s important for preserving the light of consciousness that we become a multi-planet species and, ultimately, a multi-stellar species.”

The Institute of the Motor Industry already has a skills solution for ADAS and is looking ahead to full self-driving.

IMI on the right road to next level self-driving skills

In a recent MotorPro podcast, AA President Edmund King predicted that connected and self-driving vehicles will lead to “radical changes” in the UK automotive industry. He’s quite right of course and, as you’d expect, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) is ahead of the game.

Steve Scofield FIMI, Head of Business Development at the IMI, commented: “We’re already on the road to full autonomy, starting with the lower levels of automation. For instance, our e-learning skills solution and campaigns around Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

Steve Scofield talks self-driving
Steve Scofield, Head of Business Development at the IMI, talks self-driving

“That’s currently the biggest issue for the real-world car parc, whether for accident repair or maintenance and repair. Very soon we’ll be launching new ADAS qualifications, and that’s just the start of our journey.

Self-driving skills

“From a skills perspective, the IMI is downstream of the research and testing being conducted by groups like the Department for Transport’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV). But we’re continually horizon-scanning and engaging with key stakeholders – that’s all part of being future-proof.

“We have strong partnerships with organisations like Thatcham and BSI to make sure we can see what’s coming, to build-in industry requirements, to drive continuing professional development (CPD), and to ensure there’s recognition of accredited training.”

A good example is IMI TechSafe, which identifies a member’s professionalism and safe working in the field of electric vehicles (EVs) and other safety-critical systems, including autonomous and driver assistance systems.

Self-driving standards

The repair of ADAS-equipped vehicles is covered by British Standard BS10125, formerly known as PAS 125, and most insurance companies will only give work to businesses that meet the standard.

As an indicator of how the UK will embrace the higher levels of automation – vehicles that can get from A to B with minimal human interaction – it is interesting to note the work of BSI’s connected and automated vehicles (CAV) standards programme, sponsored by the CCAV in conjunction with Innovate UK and Zenzic.

PAS stands for Publicly Available Specification, and BSI is working on three new ones: PAS 1880 on guidelines for developing and assessing control systems for automated vehicles; PAS 1881 on assuring safety for autonomous vehicle trials and testing; and PAS 1882 on data collection and management for automated vehicle trials for the purpose of incident investigation. According to BSI, around 30% of PASs go on to form the basis of international standards.

Steve Scofield continued: Our IMI industry Sector Advisory Group, which includes around 75 organisations, will be looking closely at autonomous. It’s really important for us to sow the seeds early, to embed qualifications around autonomous into our training centres so our membership is ready for the changing environment.

“Bear in mind that the Law Commission is only just putting together the regulatory framework for self-driving in the UK. We’re not far down the road with autonomous yet, we’re mainly talking level one and two driver assistance, but you can see the world is shifting towards ACES – Autonomous, Connected, Electric and Shared.

Self-driving talent

“It’s exciting for talent acquisition because it should help us to attract the next generation. Young people are very interested in low carbon and the green agenda. They also like the idea of working in a dynamic, rapidly evolving sector.

“Just this week, [IMI chief executive] Steve Nash and I were at a John Deere training academy seeing how they use GPS to position their vehicles within a centimetre or two. For road vehicles there’s the whole connectivity side, how these vehicles will talk to the infrastructure, the vehicle manufacturer, the vehicle owner and other vehicles.

“I don’t have all of the answers at this stage, I can just see bits of it as we’re researching. What’s very clear is that the motor industry will need a lot more talent in software, as well as the usual vehicle systems.”

In terms of bottom line benefits, IMI analysis of salary data for 2020 showed an earning premium of more than 10% for EV qualified technicians. That’s about £3,700 per annum extra in your pay packet for specialising in cutting-edge tech.

Please note: a version of this article was first published by the Institute of the Motor Industry’s MotorPro magazine.

Looking ahead to conditionally automated driving, owners need to understand their car’s capabilities and their responsibilities

Even before Level 3 automated driving, car manuals are epic – longer than War and Peace

As cars get ever more connected and assisted driving features on the road to conditionally automated driving (see the updated SAE Levels), drivers are ever harder pushed to find all the right buttons.

Peter Stoker, Chief Engineer at Millbrook test track, made the point in our interview last year, saying: “If you buy a new car, you should read the manual, but how many people do? Especially with Covid, more cars are being delivered with minimal interaction – it’s a case of “there’s the key, where’s the station?”

Automated driving capabilities

Just last week, Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, had this to say about changes to The Highway Code related to self-driving: “Vehicle manufacturers and sellers will have a vital role to play in ensuring their customers fully appreciate the capabilities of the cars they buy and the rules that govern them.”

Quite so. Unfortunately, no matter how thorough the handover, settings get forgotten and drivers find themselves reaching for the good old owner’s handbook. Which makes this eye-catching research by Scrap Car Comparison all the more worrying.

The salvage specialist analysed the owner’s manuals for 100 of the UK’s most popular vehicles. It found that Audi has by far the heftiest, with the R8 being longest at 616,064 words, followed by the e-tron at 603,649 words, both, incredibly, three times longer than the Ford F-Series in third at 194,305 words.

Audi R8 has the longest manual according to Scrap Car Comparison
Audi R8 has the longest manual according to Scrap Car Comparison

To put that into perspective, at an average English silent reading speed of 238 words per minute, both the R8 and e-tron manuals take over 40 hours to complete, comparable to Tolstoy’s titanic tome, War and Peace.

At a mere 76,944 words, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is well under half the size of the 163,225-word Ford Focus manual.

Top 10 longest vehicle manuals

Rank  Vehicle Make & Model  Manual Word Count  Average Time To Read  
1  Audi R8  616,064  43 hours 9 minutes  
2  Audi e-tron  603,649  42 hours 16 minutes  
3  Ford F-Series  194,305  13 hours 36 minutes  
4  Ram Pickup 1500  177,196  12 hours 24 minutes  
5  Audi A3  174,181  12 hours 11 minutes  
6  Volvo XC40  171,457  12 hours  
7  Volkswagen ID.4  168,060  11 hours 46 minutes  
8  Jeep Gladiator  163,857  11 hours 28 minutes  
9  Ford Focus  163,225  11 hours 25 minutes  
10  GMC Sierra  158,194  11 hours 4 minutes  

The shortest manuals list is dominated by two-wheelers, with the Vmoto Super Soco CPX electric scooter taking top spot, with only 2,834 words. Only three cars made the shortest manuals top 10 – the Range Rover Evoque, Nissan Leaf and VW Polo.

Range Rover Evoque has shortest car manual according to Scrap Car Comparison
Range Rover Evoque has shortest car manual according to Scrap Car Comparison

Top 10 shortest vehicle manuals

Rank  Vehicle Make & Model  Manual Word Count  Average Time To Read  
1  Vmoto Super Soco CPX2,834 11 minutes 
2  Honda NSC 110 Vision12,146 51 minutes 
3  Honda CB125F15,029 1 hour 3 minutes 
4  Range Rover Evoque16,526 1 hour 9 minutes 
5  Honda PCX12521,083 1 hour 28 minutes 
6  Nissan Leaf21,541 1 hour 30 minutes 
7  Yamaha NMAX 12522,152 1 hour 33 minutes 
8  Honda SHi 12523,438 1 hour 38 minutes 
9  Yamaha Ténéré 70028,685 2 hours 
10  VW Polo31,897 2 hours 14 minutes 

In addition to reading length, the study also used the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease Score to rank the accessibility of each manual.

It found the McLaren 765LT supercar manual to be the most difficult to digest, with a Flesch-Kincaid score of 44.3, requiring the equivalent of a college-level education to understand it.

McLaren 765LT manual the most difficult to digest according to Scrap Car Comparison
McLaren 765LT manual the most difficult to digest according to Scrap Car Comparison

The Vauxhall Crossland X and BMW 2 Series completed the top three for impenetrability, all with an 18+age suitability rating.

Top 10 hardest to read vehicle manuals

Rank Vehicle Make & Model Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease Score Age Suitability (years) 
McLaren 765LT 44.3 18+ 
Vauxhall Crossland X 44.5 18+ 
BMW 2 Series 45.06 18+ 
Ferrari 812 Superfast 45.35 18+ 
Vauxhall Grandland X 45.64 18+ 
Range Rover Evoque 45.65 18+ 
Ford Ranger 45.83 18+ 
Honda Jazz 46.38 18+ 
Nissan Frontier 46.88 18+ 
10 Mercedes GLC 47.89 18+ 

At the more accessible end of the spectrum, Tesla’s Model Y was found to be the easiest manual to understand, scoring 76.92 on the Flesch-Kincaid scale, suitable for those aged 12-13 and above.

Tesla Model Y manual the easiest to digest according to Scrap Car Comparison
Tesla Model Y manual the easiest to digest according to Scrap Car Comparison

Toyota also did well, taking second and third spots with its Tacoma and Tundra manuals.

Top 10 easiest to read vehicle manuals

Rank Vehicle Make & Model Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease Score Age Suitability (years) 
Tesla Model Y 76.92 12-13 years 
Toyota Tacoma 76.53 12-13 years 
Toyota Tundra 76.42 12-13 years 
Chevrolet Bolt EV 74.48 12-13 years 
Fiat 500 73.97 12-13 years 
Honda NSC 100 Vision 73.42 12-13 years 
Porsche 911 Turbo S 72.55 12-13 years 
Ford Mustang Mach-E 72.07 12-13 years 
Kia Sportage 69.86 13-15 years 
10 Audi Q2 69.82 13-15 years 

Dan Gick, Managing Director at Scrap Car Comparison, commented: “Vehicle owner manuals are a great resource which can teach you not only how to get the most out of your car, but also how to maintain your vehicle so that you can drive it safely. 

“While some seem to get it right in terms of reading length and accessibility, other manufacturers may need to think about whether they’re making their manuals overly complex.”

PAVE is on a mission to inform the US public about self-driving vehicles.

Letters from America: Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE)

There are many lessons America can teach us Brits about the safe introduction of driverless cars, and the vital work of Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE) is a prime example.

The US is well ahead of the UK in terms of on-road testing and there have been crashes. These high-profile incidents have dented consumer confidence and calls for greater oversight have now been met.

On 29 June 2021, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that the manufacturers and operators of vehicles equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), or higher SAE level automated driving systems, must report crashes.

Against this background, PAVE has a mission “To inform the public about automated vehicles and their potential so everyone can fully participate in shaping the future of transportation”.

Tara Andringa
Tara Andringa, Executive Director of PAVE

Executive Director of PAVE, Tara Andringa, explains: “PAVE was born at CES in Las Vegas in 2019 and unites industry, academia, non-profits and the public sector. PAVE aims to bridge the gap between the huge resources that industry is investing in AV technology, and opinion polls that show that the public is largely confused and distrustful. Our mission is to educate and engage the public.

“We don’t advocate for any particular policy. We are all about education, having a conversation and raising the level of understanding – we want to equip everyone to be part of the conversation. We started with 18 members at CES, and we’ve grown to over 80 members. There has been a lot of agreement about the need for this kind of effort, including many big industry players.”

Importantly, PAVE now has many of these big players on-board: vehicle manufacturers including Audi, Ford, Toyota and VW; AV specialists Cruise, Oxbotica and Waymo; IT and comms giants Intel and Blackberry; motoring bodies including the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA); influential campaign groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD); and charities such as The National Federation of the Blind.

Andringa continues: “Although our organisation includes very diverse members with diverse missions, we find that our efforts are more impactful if all of these groups come together.

“We like to put on demonstration events to demystify the technology and the good news is that knowledge and experience change attitudes. When we get people into AVs, they often say it is just like being in a human-driven car, and it’s almost boring. For us, that’s a success. It builds trust and understanding, which are universal concepts.

PAVE demo
PAVE AV demonstration event

“We also conduct surveys and have found a lot of confusion about the technology that’s on the road today – from people who say self-driving cars will never happen, to people who think their cars are already equipped to drive themselves.

“In particular, people confuse driver assistance with self-driving. We very much believe ADAS can improve safety, but we always emphasise that all cars for sale today require a responsible driver behind the wheel.

“Another way we have reached a lot of people is through our weekly panel discussions looking at all different aspects of AVs. These originally came about due to the pandemic, but they have gotten over 12,000 views on YouTube.

PAVE panel
PAVE panel discussion

“Recently we partnered with the State of Ohio to engage the public sector. Town and city authorities want to be ready, but they have lots of questions. We ran a workshop on how AVs work from the point of view of regulation, freight, law enforcement and linking with existing transport. The response was incredibly positive.”

For more information, including links to the panel discussions and other helpful resources, visit pavecampaign.org

Cars of the Future editor Neil Kennett talks driverless cars, driver assistance systems, The Highway Code and more.

Explore the future of motoring with Neil Kennett on the Tech Uncorked podcast

In a wide-ranging interview, our editor Neil Kennett discusses driverless cars, driver assistance systems, proposed changes to The Highway Code, robotaxis, data privacy, the trolley problem, artificial intelligence, and the Smokey and The Bandit theme song, with Dean and Sarah Gratton on the Tech Uncorked podcast.

“I’ve been a motoring journalist for 20-odd-years and I’ve become increasingly obsessed with connected and autonomous vehicles, and very dissatisfied with the majority of national media coverage,” he said.

“As I saw it, driverless cars were presented as either goodies like Kitt from Knight Rider or baddies like The Terminator, and you didn’t really get beyond that, so I launched Carsofthefuture.co.uk to explore the issues in more depth.”

Check out this scenic 40-minute journey into the future of motoring, first broadcast on 6 June 2021.

Carsofthefuture.co.uk is media partner for event boasting most senior collection of technology, AV, EV and ADAS leaders ever seen.

Carsofthefuture.co.uk is media partner for Car of the Future 2021

Carsofthefuture.co.uk has signed a media partnership agreement with Reuters Events for the two-day Car of the Future 2021 online event in June.

Intended to drive vehicle change to create a safer and more sustainable world, the event boasts the most senior collection of technology, autonomous vehicles (AV), electric vehicle (EV) and advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) leaders ever seen.

High profile speakers include: Michelle Avary, Head of Automotive and Autonomous Mobility at The World Economic Forum; Carla Gohin, Research & Innovation Senior Vice President at Stellantis; Henrik Green, Chief Technology Officer at Volvo Cars; Sajjad Khan, Member of the Board of Management at Mercedes-Benz AG; José Muñoz, Global Chief Operating Officer at Hyundai Motor Company; and Dr Ken Washington, Chief Technology Officer at Ford Motor Company.

Carsofthefuture.co.uk founder, Neil Kennett, said: “We’re delighted to be a media partner for this exciting Reuters event which fits perfectly with our mission to chart the development of, and encourage sensible debate about, driverless cars in the UK. Full self-driving is a way off yet but as ever more advanced driver assistance systems become available, notably Automated Lane Keeping (ALK), it is vital that the public understands where we are with the technology and what it can and can’t do.”

Car of the Future 2021 will take place on 14-15 June. See reutersevents.com 

Ahead of this, Reuters Events will host a free webinar, Connectivity: Smarter and Safer Vehicles, on 24 March. Confirmed speakers include: Michelle Avary; Szabi Patay, Head of Automotive at Commsignia; Prashant Tiwari, Director of Intelligent Connected Systems at Toyota North America; and Frank Weith, Director of Connected and Mobility Services at Volkswagen Group America. Register here.

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