Technology designed to make driving more fully automated has evolved in recent years, but it really hasn’t improved safety much, according to new research.
Currently, active driving assistance systems, also known as Level 2 automation, do less to assist drivers and more to interfere, and are “far from 100% reliable,” according to the AAA automotive group, which released its latest findings on automated vehicles earlier this month. In real-world driving situations, for example, vehicles equipped with active driving assistance systems on average experienced some type of issue every eight miles.
“AAA has repeatedly found that active driving assistance systems do not perform consistently, especially in real-word scenarios,” Greg Brannon, director of automotive engineering and industry relations for the AAA, said in a statement. “Manufacturers need to work toward more dependable technology, including improving lane keeping assistance and providing more adequate alerts.”
Many new vehicles sold today are equipped with features that can assist with driving, like adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance, the report noted, and when they are combined to work together as one, it is known as active driving assistance.
The study assessed Level 2 systems that provide the highest level of automated vehicle technology available to the public today. (Systems are categorized according to six different levels, on a scale from zero (no automation) to five (full vehicle autonomy).
During the evaluation, AAA automotive researchers tested active driving assistance systems in common driving scenarios in both real-world conditions and in a closed-course setting to determine how well they functioned.
On public roadways, nearly three-quarters (73%) of errors involved instances of lane departure or erratic lane position. Test vehicles, the report said, had trouble staying in their respective lanes and often came too close to other vehicles or guardrails.
Researchers also found systems that combined vehicle acceleration with braking and steering, “often disengaged with little notice – almost instantly handing control back to the driver.” The safety group noted that if a driver becomes detached from the task of driving or becomes too dependent on the system, it can be “ a dangerous scenario.”
During testing on closed-courses, systems generally performed as expected, the safety group said, however, they were particularly challenged when approaching a simulated disabled vehicle on the side of the road. In those situations, collisions occurred about 66% of the time.
AAA conducted the evaluations in partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center and AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah GoMentum Proving Grounds. Vehicles tested included: 2019 BMW X7 with “Active Driving Assistant Professional”, 2019 Cadillac CT6 with “Super Cruise™”, 2019 Ford Edge with “Ford Co-Pilot360”, 2020 Kia Telluride with “Highway Driving Assist” and 2020 Subaru Outback with “EyeSight.”
In a survey conducted earlier this year by the AAA, only 12% of drivers said they would trust riding in a self-driving car. The safety group recommends that car manufacturers increase the scope of testing and limit rolling out systems until they are improved enough to provide a greater and more consistent degree of safety.
“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.”
To access the full report and learn more about the study, click here.