Tesla's recall of nearly 363,000 vehicles equipped with the Full Self-Driving Beta Advanced Driver Assistance System last week has caught the attention of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
In a statement posted on the IIHS website, president David Harkey said the recall highlights "a more widespread issue with the ways that partial automation systems are designed and advertised." More specifically, he cited IIHS research that found drivers using Level 2 ADAS tech regularly tend to forget they're not driving fully autonomous cars.
“The partial automation systems on vehicles today require the driver to be fully engaged in the driving task at all times and retake control when necessary. Institute research shows that drivers who use partial automation on a regular basis often treat their vehicles as fully self-driving despite widespread warnings and numerous high-profile crash reports."
Harkey notes that none of the current systems is designed to replace a human driver or to make it safe for a driver to take their focus from the road and perform other activities.
In addition, he believes that recalls like the latest one from Tesla could be avoided if the drivers paid full attention to the road. "Fully attentive drivers could prevent their vehicles from doing the things cited in the recall," he said.
The IIHS president also noted that Tesla's part of the blame is that it named these systems "Full Self-Driving" and "Autopilot," leading some people to believe their vehicles can drive on their own.
"The main problems for Tesla's system include the misleading names of 'Full Self Driving' and 'Autopilot' and the fact that it does not have adequate safeguards to ensure drivers will pay full attention to the road."
Speaking of safeguards, Harkey said the IIHS has been working on the development of a new safeguard ratings program "to address how well partial automation vehicles will keep drivers engaged in the driving task and will begin rating vehicles later this year."
This is good news not only because it could lead to better informed consumers but also because it might spur competition among automakers to do better on this front.
Tesla's recall issued on February 15 for certain Model 3, Model S, Model Y and Model X vehicles was initiated after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determined that the FSD Beta system had a fault that could cause vehicles to enter intersections in an unlawful manner or exceed the speed limits on inner city roads if the driver did not intervene.