The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced it is developing a new ratings program that evaluates the safeguards that vehicles with partial automation employ to help drivers stay focused on the road.
The safeguards will be rated good, acceptable, marginal or poor. To earn a good rating, systems will need to ensure that the driver’s eyes are directed at the road and their hands are either on the wheel or ready to grab it at all times. Escalating alerts and appropriate emergency procedures when the driver does not meet those conditions will also be required.
IIHS said it expects to issue the first set of ratings in 2022.
“Partial automation systems may make long drives seem like less of a burden, but there is no evidence that they make driving safer,” said David Harkey, IIHS president. “In fact, the opposite may be the case if systems lack adequate safeguards.”
Consumer Reports has announced it will begin awarding points for partially automated driving systems, but only if they have adequate driver monitoring systems, and will factor in IIHS safeguard ratings once they are available.
The new IIHS ratings aim to encourage safeguards that can help reduce intentional and unintentional misuse. They do not address other functional aspects of the systems that could also potentially contribute to crashes, such as how well their cameras or radar sensors identify obstacles.
To earn a good rating, systems should use multiple types of alerts to remind the driver to look at the road and return their hands to the wheel when they’ve looked elsewhere or left the steering unattended for too long.
“Nobody knows when we’ll have true self-driving cars, if ever. As automakers add partial automation to more and more vehicles, it’s imperative that they include effective safeguards that help drivers keep their heads in the game,” said Harkey.