A 2019 car is closer to a plane than a car from thirty years ago. Knowing just how much cars have changed, why has the way we teach people to drive mostly stayed the same? A new paper by the Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making tackles this subject with a focus on the automated features the cars of today are outfitted with.
The paper, which is entitled “What Do We Tell the Drivers? Toward Minimum Driver Training Standards for Partially Automated Cars,” concludes that we should consider modeling our driver training after the way we currently train pilots.
Why the pilot connection? Because aircraft have had autonomous (autopilot) features for years, and learning how to correctly utilize those features is a key part of training a pilot. Today, many cars have self-driving features that are very similar to those found in airplanes. Obviously they are accomplishing different tasks, but the logic behind training a driver to utilize these autopilot features safely is sound.
The paper started by taking a look at how pilots first reacted to autopilot functions. “We found that pilots were sometimes surprised by the behavior of the automation, unable to predict what a complex system would do next,” said the paper. “Ironically, being able to predict what the automation would do next seemed to require more knowledge about how the automation works than we originally anticipated.”
Today, even though vehicles like Tesla are already on the roads with fairly robust autonomous driving features, drivers are not really taught how to use them safely, or how they can affect other drivers on the road. As a result, many drivers are running into some of the same issues that pilots did when they first started to utilize autopilot functionality.
Stephen M. Casner of NASA and Edwin L. Hutchins of the University of California San Diego are the authors of this paper and spoke with the Insurance Journal about some of their findings. According to the Journal, “…[Hutchins and Casner] applaud that car makers, insurance firms, government agencies and others are discussing some of these issues, they conclude there appear to be few actual plans to provide drivers with the training they need.”
Autonomous cars may very well lead to less accidents, but a lack of training for these new autopilot features could lead to more accidents in the near future. As vehicles become more complex, so to should the training that drivers undergo to get a license.