Study Shows Partially Automated Vehicles Are Encouraging Distracted Driving
Research from UC Davis is suggesting that policymakers should pay a little more attention to the issue of distracted driving in partially automated vehicles. According to a Streetsblog.com report, a study by researchers at the Plug-In Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center at ITS-Davis found that people who drive Tesla vehicles that are equipped with the company’s Autopilot software tend to drive more than they did before they had the software. Not just that, but they are also more likely to drive while surfing the Internet or sleeping while at the wheel trusting the unregulated and largely untested software to handle the driving.
How Safe Are These Vehicles?
The Tesla vehicles with the semi-automated Autopilot function are considered “partially automated vehicles.” The software can do some things like steering, acceleration, deceleration and braking. But, the human driver is still required to stay attentive and maintain control of the vehicle at all times.
This research essentially raises the question of how driver behavior might change when more advanced automated vehicles become available. Researchers warned that the adoption of fully automated vehicles is likely to lead to more travel and congestion. There are no federal or state policies that currently address safety issues directly even though fully automated vehicles are already being tested on California’s roads.
Semi-Automation and Distracted Driving
This research presents more evidence that automakers and tech companies need to proceed with caution when it comes to automated and semi-automated vehicles. While this type of technology appears inevitable at this point, automakers have a responsibility and obligation to do their due diligence not just when it comes to testing and safety, but also when it comes to telling consumers the truth about what their vehicles can or cannot do.
With the Tesla Autopilot, we have seen so many cases where drivers have operated while sleeping, reading, watching movies, etc. While Tesla maintains that it’s Autopilot feature should be engaged only when drivers are alert, the name of the feature itself appears to give drivers the license to operate the vehicle while distracted or even asleep. We’ve seen a number of filmed instances on Los Angeles freeways where drivers were asleep at the wheel of their Tesla vehicles when Autopilot is engaged.
Our auto defect lawyers are pleased to see this study’s recommendations that more legislation needs to be enacted in order to regulate automated and semi-automated vehicles. It is crucial for all our safety.