Texas Tech study says drivers don’t pay attention in automated cars

KCBD Newschannel 11 at 10 3/18/2019 Automated Cars

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - After more than three years, researchers at Texas Tech University say they have some alarming statistics about how much drivers actually pay attention when in automated cars. They say that’s because many people don’t realize that ‘fully automated’ still means they need to use their full attention.

The subjects are tested inside the Psychology building on campus, where researchers exam their ability to take control of a situation.

“It’s actually quite a demanding task because people are really suited from a cognitive perspective to be able to look out for these types of events and be accurate with," says David Newton, a graduate student at TTU.

Researchers found that driver accuracy dropped to 88% suggesting that, at some point, every driver missed at least one hazard.

“That’s a big deal from a safety standpoint because if you miss one car or one obstacle from your car that could be it that could be the last one that you met us so it’s very concerning for me,” says Eric Greenlee, an assistant professor of Human Factors Psychology at Texas Tech. “So what we found was that people can’t pay attention even when they’re really trying to or really instructed to for long periods of time and the more complicated the environment they have to moderate the worse they do.”

Which confuses many drivers who don’t realize how much attention is really required.

So to learn more, we reached out to car maker Tesla who says:

“Autopilot is intended for use only with a fully attentive driver who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any time. While Autopilot is designed to become more capable over time, in its current form, it is not a self-driving system, it does not turn a Tesla into an autonomous vehicle, and it does not allow the driver to abdicate responsibility.”

However Greenlee says, “I think we need to do more to make it clear to the driver what exactly the automation is doing so try to add some transparency so that the driver is in there aware of what the car is doing how it’s deciding if there’s a hazard or not so the driver stays in the loop”

Tesla does say they offer many features to help keep the driver focused, including locking the driver out of the autopilot feature if they take their hands off the wheel.

As for trusting those automatic features in general, KCBD did a poll on our Facebook and out of the more than 500 people who responded 84% say they trust a person more than the automatic features.

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