In the midst of the growing popularity of semi-autonomous driver aid systems, concerns have arisen over their potential to allow drivers to divert their attention from the road. A recent online post suggests that Rivian, a player in the electric vehicle market, might have found a solution to address such issues.
Rivian's Driver+ software is designed to alleviate the driver's workload, provided they remain attentive and ready to take control of the vehicle when necessary. The software includes features like adaptive cruise control, automatic steering, and lane-change capabilities. However, under specific preset circumstances, the system prompts drivers to resume control regardless of traffic conditions.
One notable situation is when the vehicle enters a tunnel. An online post by a user with the handle “MrrQuackers” on Reddit recounts an incident where their Rivian vehicle mistook a bridge above the road for a tunnel. The software displayed a message that read “Tunnel Ahead Take Control.” Intrigued by the software's response, the user remained vigilant to intervene if needed, while allowing the Driver+ to manage the situation.
According to MrrQuackers, the vehicle smoothly passed under the bridge without any issue. However, immediately afterward, the Driver+ system disengaged itself. Despite attempts to reactivate the system, an error message appeared stating “Not Available Until Next Drive.” While such occurrences might pose inconveniences during long or time-sensitive trips, it is a behavior akin to actions observed in other electric vehicle manufacturers such as Tesla.
As various commentators within the post noted, Tesla's Full Self-Driving software exhibits similar behavior when it detects potential issues. One user shared an experience where after a brief lapse in attention, they received a message stating “FSD not available for the rest of this trip,” accompanied by a warning that repeated incidents could lead to complete software disablement.
Upon seeking clarification from Rivian, the company provided the following statement: “Yes, that is an intentional feature of Driver+. If the system detects that your attention drifts away from the road, you'll be automatically prompted to place your hands on the wheel to keep Driver+ engaged. If you ignore the alerts, Driver+ will not reengage until after the vehicle has gone into park. Driver+ is designed to support drivers and does not replace their attention, judgment, and need to control the vehicle.”
This incident underscores the ongoing efforts of automakers to strike a balance between automation and human engagement, highlighting the complex interplay between technology and responsible driving practices.