There has been gradual, but steady progress in the development of self-driving cars. Some form of safety-focused driver assistance technology can now be found inside most new vehicles.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defines six levels of vehicle driving automation systems. Right now we’re at level two, with cars able to control steering, acceleration and braking, while requiring drivers to stay engaged. Ultimately, Level 5 autonomy would mean fully driverless cars.

But the transition to the future has not always been smooth. As technology advances, drivers adapt and the government tries to keep up.

Among the new crowd of self-driving vehicles is the 2022 Honda Civic. One of the newer parameters of the standard Honda Civic is that it can drive itself on the road and then smash smoothly behind a stopped car. .

Honda told CBS News that the system is not intended or capable of detecting the end of a road, and is not marketed or considered a hands-free technology. adding that it is the driver’s responsibility to maintain control at all times, CBS News’ Brook Silva-Braga reports.

But researcher Kelly Funkhauser, who tests self-driving technology for Consumer Reports, worries that such systems work so well most of the time that many drivers aren’t ready when the inevitable exception hits.

“There’s a tendency to find stimulus because you’re bored,” she said. “Monitoring a well-functioning system is extremely boring, but the problem is that the features are not quite up to date in their capabilities yet.”

For all automakers, the promise of autonomous driving is both convenient and safe. But neither has quite arrived yet.

“Is the person driving or not driving? Because if they’re driving it seems pointless and if they’re not driving you can’t ask them to drive all the time,” Silva-Braga said.

“Exactly, and that’s what they say, they give you the little warning in legalese, ‘Take control, because we don’t want accountability. You have to be careful, even though we know it’s boring and we know you’re a human being and you’re not going to do it, but we don’t want accountability because we know our system isn’t perfect. That’s where we’re at.” said Funkhauser.

In the 1950s, GM envisioned self-driving cars in the 1970s. In 2018, they promised them within a year.

Elon Musk previously said a Tesla would be driving across the country by 2017. That still isn’t the case, and instead the company is facing federal investigations and lawsuits over some alleged cases. of failure of its autopilot system.

Waymo launched self-driving car taxis, but the high-end sensors are far too expensive for mass-production vehicles. TuSimple has launched a self-driving option for its semi-trucks, but they are still equipped with human safety drivers.

“A lot of people find that developing for all the chaos of pavement is a lot harder than you ever thought,” Funkhauser said.

Last year, Elon Musk admitted he didn’t expect self-driving to be so difficult. Then he launched a bold plan to solve it, putting a full self-driving system on real roads and using carefully selected Tesla owners to chaperone the cars while they worked on their driving. The idea is that all those test miles will teach Tesla’s system in a way that only the real world can.

Tesla did not respond to CBS News’ request for comment, but described beta testing as a surefire way to improve its software. Some critics, however, argue that it’s a potential threat to anyone on the roads.

Consumer Reports wants automakers to enable these features only for drivers who are willing to compromise their privacy and be actively tracked, as Tesla and GMC drivers already are to some extent. Otherwise, Funkhauser said it doesn’t trust drivers to actively monitor these flawed systems, which may take much longer to monitor than we’d hoped.

“I don’t think you can order a car, pick you up from your house, take you to work until probably 2050,” she said.

Funkhauser says the most important thing that would help self-driving cars is if they could communicate with each other and the objects around them, but that also might not happen anytime soon. In the final days of the Trump administration, the FCC removed most of the radio spectrum that cars planned to use. Unless that changes, experts including Funkhauser say it will be much harder for cars to communicate.


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