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A new U.S study has highlighted misperceptions or gaps in drivers’ understanding of automated systems. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that – despite vehicles getting increasingly sophisticated – automation has limitations that can be difficult for drivers to grasp.

IIHS President David Harkey says: “Current levels of automation could potentially improve safety. However, unless drivers have a certain amount of knowledge and comprehension, these new features also have the potential to create new risks.”

For the survey, more than 2,000 drivers were asked about five Level 2 automated 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).

The survey found that one name in particular — Autopilot — ‘signals to drivers that they can turn their thoughts and their eyes elsewhere’. 

“Tesla’s user manual says clearly that the Autopilot’s steering function is a ‘hands-on feature,’ but that message clearly hasn’t reached everybody,” says Harkey.

He adds: “Manufacturers should consider what message the names of their systems send to people.”

The report states: ‘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’.

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