'Shift' Podcast Features Bryan Reimer Discussing Move to "Level 3" Automated Vehicles

by Adam Felts

In recent years, the pace of innovation in the development of advanced driver assistance systems has increased. “Level 3” automated systems are slated to soon appear on public roads. With these developments – specifically the slow movement toward cars that are purportedly able to drive themselves – there is growing scrutiny of how drivers interact with these systems.

The Shift podcast from Automotive News dives into a coming wave of new advanced vehicle technologies, with an appearance by AgeLab Research Scientist Bryan Reimer, who shared his perspective as well as an overview of the AgeLab's AVT Consortium's efforts to collect data that describes drivers' use of automated vehicle technologies.

Dr. Reimer discussed the definition of “Level 3” vehicle systems as compared to previous (and future) technological advancements. Level 4 systems are "way out there," he said – signifying a change of the vehicle operator from driver to rider. Level 2 systems on the other hand, aim to balance convenience with safety by either assisting with or taking over, in a highly limited way, certain driving tasks. Level 3 is the mushy middle – an engineer's dream and a lawyer's nightmare, Dr. Reimer said, referring to a situation of ambiguity between the capabilities of new vehicles and the responsibilities (and liability) of the drivers who operate them. Yet the shift may not be too materially significant: much of the span of capabilities that are defined in Level 3 autonomous vehicles can also be found in Level 2.

When thinking about the availability of increasingly automated vehicles to the public, Dr. Reimer’s biggest concern is misuse and abuse of the technology by its users. Consumers do things with technology that designers do not expect – famously, users of semi-autonomous driving features have been seen using their newfound freedom behind the wheel to apply makeup, eat lunch, and send emails, among other activities of dubious safety. But in one sense, these users are doing exactly what we might expect: the purpose of automation is to give consumers the resources to do other things.

In order to design new systems that really are safer, it’s important to observe how real-world users makes use of a technology. That's what the AVT consortium does, Dr. Reimer said, in its extensive efforts to collect data on drivers on public roads. The collaborative nature of the consortium means that automotive companies can leverage MIT’s trove of data and uncover insights together.

Learn more here.

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About the Author

Photo of Adam Felts
Adam Felts

Adam Felts is a researcher and writer at the MIT AgeLab. Currently he is involved in research on the experiences of family caregivers and the future of financial advice. He also manages the AgeLab blog and newsletter. He received his Master's in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University in 2014 and his Master's of Theological Studies from Boston University in 2019.

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