Continued Use of Automated Driver Assistance Systems Found to be Associated with Increased Driver Disengagement and Risky Driving Behavior.

Study of driver’s habits when using Automated Cruise Control systems.

Date Posted

Disengagement from Driving when Using Automation During a 4-Week Field Trial

Summary Information

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has defined five levels of vehicle automation ranging from level 0 (driver warning and support systems) to level 5 automation (total automation of all vehicle functions).

Currently, no level 5 automation systems exist, but auto manufacturers have begun to introduce intermediate automation into vehicles. These intermediate automation features can control certain functions of the vehicle such as lane centering, but the driver must always be ready to take control of the vehicle.

Although partially automated vehicles can relieve some of the fatigue of driving, recent studies have raised significant questions about the safety of these systems. Specifically, partially automated vehicles may give drivers a false sense of security and lead to unsafe driving behaviors.

To further understand the possible extent of driver disengagement when using partially automated vehicles, a research team at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and MIT recruited twenty volunteers in the greater Boston, Massachusetts area. Volunteers were given study-owned vehicles to drive for four weeks. The study used two different types of vehicles, but both were equipped with automated cruise control (ACC). While the vehicles were actively being driven by the participants, the research team took video recordings of the driver’s behavior.

After analyzing the video of the drivers during the four week period and performing statistical analysis on the data, the team found:

  • The longer drivers used partial automation, the more likely they were to become disengaged from the task of driving.
  • Common disengagement behaviors included using a cell phone, taking hands off the wheel, and fiddling with in-vehicle electronics.
  • Manufacturers should consider implementing more robust driver engagement and monitoring systems.  
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