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Man v Machine – the Ultimate Battle for Safety

Man v Machine – the Ultimate Battle for Safety

For some time now, drivers and non-drivers alike have been excited by the possibility of the fully automated self-driving vehicle. It is one of the big technological leaps anticipated in the 21st century and is expected to save time, countless lives and inevitably the planet. However, are we all getting a little bit overexcited and carried away by the bold claims made by the automotive industry when it comes to Autonomous Driving?

In 2014, the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) published its Levels of Automation to standardize the conceptual understanding of what building blocks make up ‘full automation’; making better sense of the ‘feet off’, ‘hands off’, ‘eyes off’, ‘brain off’ model. However, has it actually simplified the understanding for the average driver?

I always use my wife as my example when elaborating on this point. She is an intelligent, modern driver who is lucky enough to receive a new high-spec company car every two years. She is guided on what vehicle to choose based on the marketing from each vehicle manufacturer and desire to keep our children safe on the daily drive to school.

Now, it is fair to say that leaning on my years as an active safety test engineer, ADAS technical expert and now principal engineer at Racelogic, I always have my two cents in the negotiation, but inevitably it is up to her to choose the correct vehicle from what she is led to believe from her local dealers. Dealers who are making bold claims based on the global understanding of autonomy and assuring her that “this vehicle is one step away from an autonomous vehicle and therefore the safest place for your family”.

I have even had one dealer try to describe the collision warning/close following triangle on the display as ‘Slip Stream Assist’, completely unaware of the vehicle’s Level 2 ADAS features and misunderstanding the importance of correct communication. Yes, this is a shrewd selling strategy, but dangerously incorrect.

You can see just how there is a disjoint between the technical standards and consumer understanding. It is for this reason that consumer group Euro NCAP are moving away from referring to Level 1-5 but rather 3 ‘modes’ on the basis that people need to understand what exactly their responsibility is, as opposed to referring to the specific SAE Levels which are designed for experts rather than for user communication.