Startling results of a national public opinion survey about automated vehicles revealed that public misperceptions and over-confidence in these technologies may have unintended consequences for driver behaviour.
The increasing availability of advanced safety features that work in tandem, such as lane-keeping and forward collision warning systems, have been an important step towards the development of automated vehicles. Currently, expectations are high that the advent of semi- or fully-automated vehicles will dramatically reduce road crashes and produce a range of other benefits. But whether these gains are achieved will ultimately depend entirely on drivers.
“The results of this poll demonstrated that the limitations of automated vehicle technology are not well-understood by the general public” said Robyn Robertson, President & CEO of Traffic Injury Research Foundation. “Almost 1 in 6 Canadians believed that they would not have to be attentive when driving a semi-automated vehicle, and that they would not have to be prepared to take control of it unexpectedly.”
Equally concerning, at least some drivers reported they would be more willing to take risks when using a semi-automated vehicle. Almost 25% of drivers reported they would drive tired or fatigued, and 17% would engage in a non-driving activity such as texting, reading or working more than they do now. And, 10% and 9% of drivers respectively indicated that they would be more willing to sleep or nap behind the wheel, or drink and drive.
“Some organizations will tell you that automated vehicle technology is intended to replace the driver. Our view is that advanced active safety technology is meant to enhance a driver’s control of their vehicle, but that it is not a replacement for a knowledgeable and attentive driver.”, said Stephen Beatty, Vice-President, Corporate at Toyota Canada, Inc.
There are many outstanding driver issues that have not yet been addressed, and it is important to underscore the distinction between what automated technology can currently do, and what it may be able to do in the future. Canadians will want to use semi-automated vehicles to drive in bad weather, heavy traffic and poor road conditions, but these are precisely the conditions under which automated technology is currently most likely to fail.
According to Robertson, “These findings underscored that drivers are not aware of their continued role in the safety equation as these vehicles become available. Such misperceptions have real potential to negatively affect driver behaviour and result in either unintentional misuse or abuse of technologies that are able to assist drivers, but not replace them.”
Overall, findings from this poll highlighted that education and awareness must keep pace with automated vehicle technology to avoid increased risk-taking by drivers. The prevalence of misperceptions about the capabilities of this technology, and its limitations is concerning. Governments, manufacturers and road safety stakeholders are important partners that must work cooperatively to fill this critical gap.
More than 2,600 Canadian drivers responded to the poll that investigated driver knowledge, attitudes, and practices in relation to much anticipated, semi- and fully-automated vehicles.
Sourced: Toyota Canada files