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Report: Tesla Drivers Confused by Autopilot Mode

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June 21, 2019—A recent study revealed how the names manufacturers use for autonomous systems can send the wrong messages to drivers regarding how attentive they should be. Another found that drivers don't always understand important information communicated by system displays.

For the survey, more than 2,000 drivers were asked about five Level 2 system names currently on the market. The names were Autopilot (used by Tesla), Traffic Jam Assist (Audi and Acura), Super Cruise (Cadillac), Driving Assistant Plus (BMW) and ProPilot Assist (Nissan). Participants were told the names of the systems but not the vehicle brands associated with them and weren't given any other information about the systems.

When asked whether it would be safe to take one's hands off the wheel while using the technology, 48 percent of people asked about Autopilot said they thought it would be. Autopilot also had substantially greater proportions of people who thought it would be safe to look at scenery, read a book, talk on a cellphone or text.

Six percent thought it would be OK to take a nap while using Autopilot.

A second recent IIHS study looked at whether drivers understand this information from the display of a 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class with the Drive Pilot system. The E-Class display is typical of displays from other automakers.

In the study, certain key pieces of information eluded many of the participants. While almost everyone was able to understand when adaptive cruise control had adjusted the vehicle speed or detected another vehicle ahead, most participants, regardless of whether they received the training, struggled to understand what was happening when the system didn't detect a vehicle ahead because it was initially beyond the range of detection.

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