Consumer Comfort With Autonomous Tech Trails Automaker Advances

chevrolet-bolt-euv-2022-22-interior-steering-wheel 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV | photo by Christian Lantry

As autonomous driving technologies in vehicles continue to get more and more advanced, consumer comfort with some of these features has not yet caught up. That’s according to a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that looked at three systems to determine consumer comfort: lane centering, automated lane changing and driver monitoring.

Related: Which Cars Have Self-Driving Features for 2022?

The survey determined that most drivers prefer partial automation that comes with appropriate safeguards, while hands-free systems make many drivers nervous. IIHS said that while the survey showed that consumer interest in these technologies is strong, it also showed that most drivers prefer features that require them to stay engaged and in control behind the wheel.

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

Hands On or Hands Off?

Lane centering systems automatically and continually adjust the car’s steering to keep the vehicle in the middle of the lane; some require driver feedback, while others are hands-free. Many of the drivers surveyed said that the hands-free feature would make driving safer and more comfortable. However, IIHS said some respondents said it would be easy to misuse the technology, allowing them to do other things while driving.

Respondents felt differently about automated lane changing systems, which enable the vehicle to change lanes automatically, sometimes without driver input. With these systems, many survey respondents said they prefer the hands-on version of the features. In the case of automated lane changing, IIHS said drivers overwhelmingly preferred the feature to be driver-initiated.

In addition, the survey determined that many drivers are comfortable with driver-monitoring features, such as driver-facing cameras and sensors on the steering wheel, because of the increased sense of safety they provide.

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

What’s Next?

For this nationwide survey, IIHS researchers contacted more than 1,000 drivers and surveyed them about their comfort levels related to lane centering, automated lane changing and driver monitoring.

The survey was designed to help IIHS gather information about how to rate autonomous systems. IIHS announced earlier in the year that the agency would begin to evaluate self-driving systems with the intention of coming up with ratings to help drivers choose a safer vehicle.

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News Editor Jennifer Geiger joined the automotive industry in 2003, much to the delight of her Corvette-obsessed dad. Jennifer is an expert reviewer, certified car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats — many of them while driving a minivan. Email Jennifer Geiger

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