What’s in a name? Drivers’ perceptions of the use of five SAE Level 2 driving automation systems

Teoh, Eric R.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
June 2019

Introduction: Automobile manufacturers are developing increasingly sophisticated driving automation systems. Currently, the highest level of automation that is available on the market is SAE Level 2, which provides sustained assistance for both lateral and longitudinal vehicle control functions. Level 2 systems exist under a variety of brand names. The brand name is one piece of information about a system. The purpose of this study was to evaluate how drivers’ perceptions of what behaviors secondary to driving are safe while a Level 2 system is operating vary by system name.
Methods: A nationally representative telephone survey of 2,005 drivers was conducted in 2018 with questions about behaviors respondents perceived as safe while a Level 2 driving automation system is in operation. Each respondent was asked about two out of five system names at random for a balanced study design. Respondents also were asked about Level 2 systems in general and about their own vehicle and driving.
Results: The name “Autopilot” was associated with the highest likelihood that drivers believed a behavior was safe while in operation, for every behavior measured, compared with other system names. Many of these differences were statistically significant. There was less variation observed among the other four SAE Level 2 system names when compared with each other. A limited proportion of drivers had experience with advanced driver assistance systems: 9–20% of respondents reported having at least one crash avoidance technology such as forward collision warning or lane departure warning, and fewer of these reported driving a vehicle in which Level 2 systems were available. Drivers reported that they would consult a variety of sources for information on how to use a Level 2 system.
Conclusions: The names of SAE Level 2 driving automation systems influence drivers’ perceptions of how to use them, and the name “Autopilot” was associated with the strongest effect. While a name alone cannot properly instruct drivers on how to use a system, it is a piece of information and must be considered so that drivers are not misled about the correct usage of these systems.
Practical applications: Manufacturers, suppliers, and organizations regulating or evaluating SAE Level 2 automated driving systems should ensure that systems are named so as not to mislead drivers about their proper use.