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IIHS Will Begin to Test and Rate Autonomous Car Driving Systems

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the US has announced its intention to add Autonomous Driving System safety tests to its portfolio of tests conducted on cars to determine their overall safety. The ratings program is meant to evaluate vehicles with partial automation to determine how safe they are when in use.

As with their crash tests, the IIHS will designate ratings of Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Poor. These new ratings will be applied to systems like Super Cruise from GM, BlueCruise from Ford and Autopilot from Tesla. The IIHS already tests forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems but uses a different ratings system.


To receive the highest “Good” rating, the IIHS is stressing the need to have an excellent driver monitoring system. It must be able to ensure that the driver’s eyes are directed at the road and their hands are either on the wheel or ready to grab it at all times. Many driver monitoring systems are already fairly effective at tracking a driver’s eyes and can sense when a driver's hand is on the wheel, but tracking their hands’ positions when they are off the wheel is new.

Additionally, “Good” rated cars will have multiple types of escalating alerts to get the driver’s attention if the monitoring finds them to be inattentive. If none of the alerts remedy the driver’s inattentiveness, then the vehicle will need a fail-safe procedure that slows the vehicle to a stop or crawl, notifies the manufacturer concierge and calls emergency services if necessary. Also, to earn a “Good” rating, the car must only perform automatic lane changes when they’re initiated by the driver for example, you tell the car you want to move into the left lane by activating the left turn signal. Another criterion to achieve a “Good” rating is that adaptive cruise control must be designed to not reactivate after traffic ahead brings the car to an elongated stop and the driver is not looking at the road.

The news of this new rating system came around the same time as a US Transportation Sub-committee hearing on the road ahead for Autonomous vehicles ended seemingly with more questions than answers and no new policy outcomes despite the urgent need for a national level strategy in the US.