The uncertainty surrounding this issue may create difficulties for drivers.
“I am concerned that many drivers might overlook the fine print and mistakenly believe that they are now allowed to divert their attention from the road and use their phones or other devices,” expressed Funkhouser.
As lawmakers grow increasingly worried about driver distractions, the question of how human drivers can or should utilize their time becomes more crucial. The answers to this question may vary from state to state.
Recently, Michigan passed a law that prohibits motorists from physically sending or receiving phone calls or text messages, as well as accessing, reading, or posting on social networking sites while driving. New York has even stricter regulations that forbid drivers from removing their hands from the steering wheel, although it permits the use of voice commands and hands-free modes.
“Lawmakers are making every effort to increase attention spans and promote more focused driving,” explained Jennifer Dukarski, an attorney specializing in vehicle safety and emerging technologies at Butzel Law Firm in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dukarski believes that Level 3 automation will be perceived as less-engaged driving by the public.
Although human drivers may be asked to take control, Koopman, one of the writers of the SAE levels standard enshrined in California’s automated driving laws, clarifies that Level 3 does not require constant vigilance until the point where drivers need to intervene.
“If there’s a firetruck parked in the middle of the road or the traffic light is red, you — the human — have no obligation whatsoever to notice that,” he clarified.
However, NHTSA has a slightly different stance on Level 3. According to the agency’s spokesperson, human drivers can “disengage from the driving tasks under limited circumstances,” but they must be prepared to respond to any cues to intervene.
Theoretically, human drivers would receive a prompt to regain control with a defined time period to do so. However, there are currently no standards regarding the duration of this period.
Mercedes-Benz has not disclosed its method of notifying drivers to retake control or the length of time they would have to remain in control.
A study published in March by Reimer and his MIT colleagues found that it took drivers an average of 6.1 seconds to refocus their vision on the road following a request initiated by the system. The study focused on Level 2 driver-assist systems, where human drivers always bear responsibility. Reimer is concerned that Level 3 systems would require even more time for drivers to regain situational awareness. This is why he believes systems that allow drivers to divert their attention from traffic are not feasible.
“If you have to be ready at all points in time to take control, that means you can’t pay zero attention to the road,” he explained.
If motorists fail to respond to prompts to retake control, the issues surrounding Level 3 deployments become more complex.
Mercedes-Benz stated that if the driver fails to regain control “after increasingly urgent prompting and the expiration of the takeover time,” the system will bring the vehicle to a halt and activate its hazard warning lights.
The company did not provide details on how these prompts operate or whether the vehicle would stop within its lane or move to the shoulder. NHTSA issued an interpretation of federal safety standards in 2016 regarding automated driving systems, stating that vehicles stopping in travel lanes could be considered a safety defect.
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Omprakash Tiwary is a business writer who delves into the intricacies of the corporate world. With a focus on finance and economic landscape. He offers readers valuable insights into market trends, entrepreneurship, and economic developments.