AAA automotive researchers recommend further testing on self-driving vehicles | Business

Hold off on those red-carpet rollouts.

AAA is recommending that auto manufacturers do a little more testing on their self-driving vehicles.

“AAA automotive researchers found that over the course of 4,000 miles of real-world driving, vehicles equipped with advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) experienced some type of issue,” according to Thursday’s news release. “Researchers noted instances of trouble with the systems keeping the vehicles tested in their lane and coming too close to other vehicles or guardrails.”

The AAA study also found that active driving assistance systems, those that combine vehicle acceleration with braking and steering, often disengage with little notice – almost instantly handing control back to the driver, which is a dangerous scenario if a driver has become disengaged from the driving task or has become too dependent on the system.

AAA has recommended manufacturers increase the scope of testing for active driving assistance systems and limit their rollout until functionality is improved to provide a more consistent and safer driver experience.

“AAA has repeatedly found that active driving assistance systems do not perform consistently, especially in real-word scenarios,” said Greg Brannon, director of automotive engineering and industry relations. “Manufacturers need to work toward more dependable technology, including improving lane keeping assistance and providing more adequate alerts.”

AAA graphic of study on ADAS

A diagram from AAA’s study on autonomous vehicles showing how they react to highly dynamic environments. Illustration courtesy of AAA – The Auto Group

Active driving assistance, classified as Level 2 driving automation on a scale of six (0-5) created by the SAE International, are advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that provide the highest level of automated vehicle technology available to the public today. This means for a majority of drivers, their first or only interaction with vehicle automation is through these types of systems, which according to AAA, are far from 100{d758473eadf0b692d331aa823300cffd0ef21fd1fd535177f3429dd328b70b5d} reliable.

As Adrienne Woodland, public relations program consultant for AAA – The Auto Club Group explained, vehicles today are equipped with a variety of safety technology with an even larger variety of names, often causing confusion for the consumer.

These systems are classified as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and include things like blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. Active driving assistance (ADA), the technology tested in this AAA study, is also considered an ADAS, however it differs from the others in a distinct way. ADA systems combine braking, accelerating and steering, which means bringing together functionality provided by adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance. This technology actively assists the driver versus other ADAS that only engages when needed. ADA is also the only ADAS classified as Level 2 automation by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

AAA tested the functionality of active driving assistance systems in real-world conditions or naturalistic environments and in a closed-course setting to determine how well they responded to common driving scenarios.

“Naturalistic evaluations were conducted on Highway 101 from the greater Los Angeles area to the greater San Francisco area,” said Woodland. “Interstate-5 was utilized for the return trip back to the Los Angeles area.”

This done because some of the vehicle’s technology relies on satellites that cannot be accessed in a closed-course setting

On public roadways, nearly three-quarters or 73{d758473eadf0b692d331aa823300cffd0ef21fd1fd535177f3429dd328b70b5d} of errors involved instances of lane departure or erratic lane position. While AAA’s closed-course testing found that the systems performed mostly as expected, they were particularly challenged when approaching a simulated disabled vehicle. When encountering this test scenario, in aggregate, a collision occurred 66{d758473eadf0b692d331aa823300cffd0ef21fd1fd535177f3429dd328b70b5d} of the time and the average impact speed was 25 mph.

“Active driving assistance systems are designed to assist the driver and help make the roads safer, but the fact is, these systems are in the early stages of their development,” added Brannon. “With the number of issues we experienced in testing, it is unclear how these systems enhance the driving experience in their current form. In the long run, a bad experience with current technology may set back public acceptance of more fully automated vehicles in the future.”

AAA’s 2020 automated vehicle survey found that only one in ten drivers would trust riding in a self-driving car.

To increase consumer confidence in future automated vehicles, it is important that car manufacturers perfect functionality as much as possible – like active driving assistance systems available now – before deployment in a larger fleet of vehicles. AAA has met with industry leaders to provide insight from the testing experience and recommendations for improvement. The insights are also shared with AAA members and the public to inform their driving experiences and vehicle purchase decisions.


The study was part of a partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center and AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah’s GoMentum Proving Grounds.

Among the vehicles tested using a defined set of criteria were: 2019 BMW X7 with “Active Driving Assistant Professional”, 2019 Cadillac CT6 with “Super Cruise(tm)”, 2019 Ford Edge with “Ford Co-Pilot360(tm)”, 2020 Kia Telluride with “Highway Driving Assist” and 2020 Subaru Outback with “EyeSight(r)” sourced from the manufacturer or directly from dealer inventory. The 2019 Cadillac CT6 and the 2019 Ford Edge were evaluated only on the highway.

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