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autoApril 28, 2021

Auto group backs guidelines for partially automated vehicles

The trade association representing most major automakers is offering guidelines for manufacturers to advertise partially automated driving systems and to make sure drivers are paying attention while using them.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation says its members support the voluntary principles, which come as two federal agencies increase scrutiny of Tesla’s Autopilot diver-assist system after two men were killed in a fiery crash near Houston. Such systems can keep vehicles centered in their lane and a safe distance behind traffic in front of them.
But Teslas on Autopilot have been involved in multiple crashes, including several fatalities, when neither the system nor the driver intervened. The Teslas have had trouble handling stopped emergency vehicles or tractor-trailers crossing in front of the cars. Critics, including some legislators, have said the name Autopilot is deceptive and implies that the cars can drive themselves.
The alliance, which represents at least 20 automakers including General Motors, Ford and Toyota, released the principles ahead of a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing Tuesday on the future of automotive safety and technology.
The principles say that any vehicle with such a system should have driver monitoring as standard equipment. Cameras should be considered to make sure drivers have eyes on the road, and the monitoring systems should be designed so they can’t be “disengaged or disabled” while the partially automated systems are working, according to the list of principles.
Automobiles should issue warnings and should take corrective action such as disengaging the automated systems or increasing the distance between vehicles if drivers don’t pay attention, the list said.
The alliance includes automakers that account for about 99% of the industry’s vehicle sales in the U.S., but Tesla is not a member. It was not immediately clear if the Palo Alto, California-based company would participate.
The principles, shaped over the past year after discussions with the insurance industry, regulators and consumer groups, are aimed at raising consumer awareness about the limitations of robotic driving systems, said John Bozzella, the alliance’s CEO.
That effort includes dispelling the notion that the technology has advanced to the point that human intervention is no longer needed — something that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has promised will soon happen with his company’s electric cars.
“There is no vehicle that I know of in the U.S. marketplace today that is a self-driving vehicle,” Bozzella said.
Messages were left seeking comment from Tesla, which has disbanded its media relations office. The company has said that Autopilot is an assistance system and drivers must be ready to intervene at all times.