Automaker trade group backs guidelines for driver assistance systems

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DETROIT – The trade association that represents most of the major automakers provides guidelines for manufacturers to advertise partially automated driving systems and to ensure that drivers pay attention while using them.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation says its members support the voluntary principles that stem from two federal agencies increasing scrutiny of Tesla’s Autopilot diver assistance system after two men are killed in a fiery crash near Houston. Such systems can keep vehicles centered in their lane and a safe distance behind the traffic in front of them.

But Teslas on Autopilot have been involved in multiple crashes, including several fatalities, in which neither the system nor the driver intervened. The Teslas have had problems dealing with stopped emergency vehicles or tractor trailers crossing in front of the cars, or points on highways. Critics, including some lawmakers, have said the Autopilot name is deceptive and implies that the cars can drive themselves.

The alliance, which represents at least 20 automakers, including General Motors, Ford and Toyota, disclosed the principles ahead of a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing Tuesday on the future of automotive safety and technology.

The principles say that every vehicle with such a system should have driver monitoring as standard. Cameras should be considered to ensure drivers have eyes on the road, and surveillance systems should be designed so that they cannot be “turned off or off” while the partially automated systems are operating, according to the list of principles.

Cars must issue warnings and take corrective action, such as turning off the automatic systems or increasing the distance between vehicles if drivers are not paying attention, the list said.

The alliance includes carmakers that account for about 99% of US car sales, but Tesla is not a member. It was not immediately clear whether the Palo Alto, California-based company would participate.

The principles, formed over the past year after discussions with the insurance industry, regulators and consumer groups, are designed to raise consumer awareness of the limitations of robotic control systems, said John Bozzella, the alliance’s CEO.

That effort includes dispelling the idea that the technology is so advanced that human intervention is no longer necessary – something Tesla CEO Elon Musk has promised will happen to his company’s electric cars soon.

“There is no vehicle that I know of in the US market that is a self-driving vehicle,” said Bozzella.

Messages were left seeking comment from Tesla, which has closed his media relations agency. The company has said Autopilot is an assistance system and drivers should be ready to intervene at all times.

Still, Tesla continues to market its self-driving technology as “Autopilot” – the kind of misleading name the alliance tries to discourage with its new guiding principles. Tesla’s critics have devastated Musk and the company for exaggerating the capabilities of its technology, leading drivers to think they don’t have to worry about taking control of the vehicle or even encouraging some drivers to climb into the backseat while it vehicle navigates. away in itself.

“There is no doubt that high profile crashes have increased consumer acceptance and consumer confidence,” said Bozzella. “System names and promotional materials should not be misleading. Potential for driver misuse should be evaluated as part of the design process. “

Tesla uses sensors on the steering wheel to determine if a driver’s hands are present. But unlike most other car manufacturers, Autopilot doesn’t use cameras to make sure drivers are engaged. Critics say Tesla’s system can be easily fooled.

The alliance’s principles also emerge as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Transportation Safety Board investigate the Tesla crash in the Houston area, with local authorities saying no one was in the driver’s seat. Tesla says the steering wheel was damaged, indicating that a human was behind the wheel at the time of the crash, and that the seat belts had been loosened.

Authorities in Harris County, Texas, say investigators are confident that no human was driving the car. One man was found in the front passenger seat, the other in the back seat. They would use search warrants in their investigation.

NHTSA has sent investigators to 28 Tesla crashes, of which 24 investigations are still active. The agency, which has regulatory authority over the auto industry, says it is taking a fresh look at automated vehicle regulation with the change to President Joe Biden.