‘Hands free’: Automakers race to next level of not quite self-driving cars

Jason Levine, head of the Center for Auto Safety advocacy group, said NHTSA should develop minimum performance standards. “Even if consumers know what the feature is supposed to do, there’s no standard to be sure it’s even performing as advertised,” he said.

July 15, 2020 

Ben Klayman, Paul Lienert 

DETROIT (Reuters) – Autopilot, ProPilot, CoPilot: Automakers have many names for new systems that allow for hands-free driving, but no safety or performance standards to follow as they roll out the most significant changes to vehicle technology in a generation.  

A GM test driver sits in a 2021 Cadillac Escalade SUV with General Motors’ Super Cruise hands-free driving assistance in this undated handout picture. General Motors/Handout via REUTERS  

Spurred by Tesla Inc’s (TSLA.O) success and eager to start profiting from billions spent on autonomous driving research, automakers are accelerating plans to automate routine driving tasks such as cruising on a highway and make them widely available within five years, industry executives said.  

Most traditional automakers until recently had resisted allowing drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel for extended periods, concerned about product liability claims. Now, hands-free driving systems offer a new and sorely needed source of profit for automakers and suppliers such as Aptiv Plc (APTV.N), especially when this technology is packaged with other extra-cost options.  

“Consumers are willing to pay extra – sometimes a lot of money – for advanced technology and features that are convenience-oriented rather than strictly focused on safety,” IHS principal analyst Jeremy Carlson said.  

To address concerns about liability, some automakers are installing cameras inside vehicles, along with warning systems, to ensure drivers remain attentive and ready to take over manual control when necessary.  

Critics charge that the technology to automate highway driving, parking and navigation in stop-and-go traffic is being deployed in a regulatory vacuum where an absence of industry-wide standards and common terminology creates confusion about what the systems can safely do. 

Read the full article from Reuters.