The risks of multitasking
DEKRA study on autonomous driving shows significant difficulties in taking over vehicle control
These days, highly automated driving functions are already capable of independently controlling a vehicle. The first of such systems, the Mercedes DrivePilot, has already been approved in Germany. This means that, under clearly defined and relatively strict conditions, motorists can devote their attention to other activities. Nevertheless, they need to be prepared to intervene in an emergency.
Carrying out another activity while driving autonomously makes it extremely difficult to detect system errors
When taking over the driving of a vehicle from highly automated driving, however, drivers sometimes experience considerable difficulties, even if they have not previously held a part time job. This is the result of a study conducted by DEKRA in cooperation with the Technical University of Dresden at the DEKRA Lausitzring. During test drives on the circuit, the two takeover scenarios "false alarm" and "silent alarm" were played out: One group of test subjects was tasked with following the automated drive as passive monitors and only intervening when they felt it was necessary. A second group was additionally asked to perform a visually demanding activity on a tablet during the automated drive.
There were significant difficulties during autonomous driving in "silent alert" mode, for example, in dangerous situations where the human driver would need to take control, but the system did not request it. For example, when you cross the stop line at a stop sign, when you gradually drift into the oncoming lane, or when you suddenly swerve to avoid an obstacle in front of you. It was noticeable that even some drivers who were not engaged in any other activity had considerable difficulty taking control of the vehicle. Depending on the situation, between 58 and 59 percent of the tablet group were unsuccessful in a "silent alarm". But even among those not engaged in any activity, the percentage of those who failed to take control of the vehicle was surprisingly high, ranging from 24 to 61 percent.
DEKRA believes that the study once again underscores the fact that multitasking is risky when the driver has to take control of the vehicle.
In contrast, the "false alarm" scenario, i.e. a warning without a critical situation, did not cause any problems for any of the groups in taking control of the vehicle. However, they took an unexpectedly long time to do so. While other studies show a time of 0.83 seconds, here an average of 2.44 seconds was recorded. DEKRA believes that the study once again underscores the fact that multitasking is risky when the driver has to take control of the vehicle. Carrying out another activity while driving autonomously makes it extremely difficult to detect system errors and react quickly enough to deal with the situation appropriate.