Drivers need to stay engaged when using automated vehicles, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The organization has issued a set of research-based safety recommendations on the design of partially automated driving systems.

The guidelines stress the need for drivers to remain focused on the road even as the vehicle does more of the work.

The IIHS says the current partially automated systems still need the driver to be involved at all times, which means robust methods are needed to monitor driver engagement and to regain the driver’s attention when it wanders.

Designs should also be based on a principle of shared control, and they should have built-in limits that prevent them from being used on roads and under conditions where it isn’t safe to do so, the organisation’s researchers say.

“Unfortunately, the more sophisticated and reliable automation becomes, the more difficult it is for drivers to stay focused on what the vehicle is doing,” said IIHS President David Harkey. “That’s why systems should be designed to keep drivers actively engaged.”

Under the classification system developed by SAE International, there are five levels of automation, ranging from 0 (no automation) to 5 (fully self-driving). The highest level available in production vehicles today is Level 2.