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New Study Suggests Humans Have Trouble with Semi-Autonomous Driving Systems

December 19, 2016

Transition Between Automated Driving and Human Driving is Not Smooth, Study Says

In the future, truly "driverless" cars will be able to shuttle passengers from one destination to another without a human having to make any manual input to adjust the car's speed and/or direction of travel. Autonomous cars (it is hoped) will be able to travel along a roadway at a constant speed, avoid colliding with other vehicles and hazards, and handle curves in the road and navigate turns safely. Until the requisite technology is developed and tested, however, "driverless" technology is actually semi-autonomous in nature and requires human drivers to remain alert and able to take back control from the computer on a moment's notice. A new study conducted by a group at Stanford University suggests humans may have a difficult time handling this transition.

Human Drivers Have Difficulty Adjusting to Computerized Control Settings

The study conducted by the Stanford University group was simple: 22 drivers would be placed in a semi-autonomous car and told to take over driving the vehicle at a certain point on a closed course and make a lane change in order to complete the course. Researchers were able to control the sensitivity of the car's controls in order to mimic higher-speed driving conditions. The study showed drivers reacted poorly when taking over the controls under these conditions and had to take corrective actions in order to regain control of the car and make the lane change. While drivers were eventually able to adapt to the steering control sensitivity, this required the driver to actually experience the car's steering sensitivity as opposed to merely being aware of when control of the vehicle would pass from robot to human.

Study Experiences Foreshadow Tragedy on the Roadway

If the behavior of the drivers in the study is any indication of real-world driver behavior, the study would suggest that the crucial moments after a driver takes control of a vehicle from a semi-autonomous system can be dangerous and lead to an auto accident. If a driver misjudges the sensitivity of the steering controls, he or she may oversteer, leaving his or her lane of travel and causing a collision with another vehicle. On a busy highway or crowded street, the driver of a semi-autonomous car may not have time to "experiment" and adapt to a car's steering system's sensitivity upon retaking control of the car. This is especially true given that drivers in the real-world must be prepared to take over control of the car at a moment's notice, whereas the drivers in the study were given advance warning as to when they would be expected to assume control of the car.

The Atlanta car accident law firm of Montlick and Associates recognizes that semi-autonomous and autonomous car technology is potentially the wave of the future. We also recognize that these new and exciting technologies present many risks of human error and carelessness to cause serious or fatal traffic collisions that can devastate you and your family.

Put Our Law Firm's Over 39 Years of Experience to Work For Your Accident & Injury Claim

If you or a member of your family has been involved in any accident caused by negligence, our attorneys can examine the facts and circumstances of what happened as well as advise you on your legal rights and options. You may be able to recover compensation even if the other driver was operating a semi-autonomous vehicle.

Our firm has over 39 years of experience in representing car accident victims across Georgia and in the Southeast. Contact us to schedule your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.


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Category: Auto Accidents

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