Dangerous Combinations

steering wheel with banana

Attending #AVS19 is another great opportunity to identify where user experience and vehicle systems functionality inconsistencies could lead to safety and operational risks. In a conversation on Monday, I described how I recently used lane-keeping assist but was frustrated with the system’s deprecation behavior when my hands were not on the steering wheel. So I installed a banana on the steering wheel (to provide torque simulating a human hand resting on the wheel) and thereby provided what feels to the user like Level 4 automation, where no human intervention is (presumably) required. The problem was that I used this modified self-steering with non-adaptive cruise control. An industry colleague pointed out that Volvo disallows the operation of two Level 1 systems at the same time, even though they feature both #LKA and #ACC. Using a Level 0 and Level 1 function to simulate Level 4 is a huge risk, as neither system was designed to function that way.

Interestingly, BMW introduced the concept of disallowing cruise control nearly 15 years ago on vehicles equipped with both cruise control and dynamic stability control. Disabling the DSC would lead to the cruise control being inoperative.

Why is this important? In today’s world of various Automated Driving Assistance Systems (#ADAS), users are often misled into a false sense of security regarding these systems and their operation. They expect nearly-autonomous operation from a relatively-reliable systems that are intended for supervised use only. Using a non-adaptive system with no external sensors (conventional cruise control as opposed to ACC) with an adaptive and semi-automated system such as LKA can lead to a false sense of security. If I can bypass these systems with very little forethought, will others who don’t understand the risks of these interactions do the same?

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