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AAA Study Finds Flaws with Driver Assistance Technologies

New AAA research finds inconsistencies in vehicle systems that automate speed, braking and lane centering

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NASHVILLE, Tenn., (Aug. 6, 2020) — Although it's designed to make you safer on the road, AAA is warning drivers to be cautious when trusting certain vehicle technology. What's called "active driving assistance" is designed to automate certain aspects of driving. However, AAA researchers warn that this system is far from 100% reliable.

Testing the Technology

While there are various forms of Advanced Driver Assistance Technologies in vehicles today, Active Driving Assistance is unique in that it combines functionalities like steering, acceleration and braking. AAA's research focused on five vehicles equipped with Active Driving Assistance. View the full report.

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

AAA automotive researchers found that over the course of 4,000 miles of real-world driving, vehicles equipped with active driving assistance systems experienced some type of issue every 8 miles, on average.

Researchers noted instances of:

  • Trouble keeping the vehicles in their lane and coming too close to other vehicles or guardrails
  • Systems often disengaging with little notice – almost instantly giving control back to the driver

"Active driving assistance systems may lull drivers in to a false sense of security, allowing them to direct their attention away from driving," said Megan Cooper, spokesperson, AAA – The Auto Club Group. "When using these systems, it's critical that drivers remain focused on the road, in case you need to intervene. Although these systems are designed to make the roads safer, they're still in the early stages of development and are not consistent."

Why the Lane Centering System Struggles

On public roadways, nearly three-quarters (73%) of all system errors involved instances of lane departure or erratic lane position. These systems currently rely on in-vehicle cameras to determine lane position. Just like our eyes, the cameras struggle to "see" when lane markings are not clear or when the sun is providing too much glare. Also, lane changes can happen suddenly, causing the vehicle to struggle in a more complex driving environment.

Collisions with Disabled Vehicles

While AAA's closed-course testing found that the systems performed mostly as expected. They were particularly challenged when approaching a simulated disabled vehicle, partially in the roadway. When encountering this test scenario, in aggregate, a collision occurred 66% of the time and the average impact speed was 25 mph.

AAA Recommendations

AAA believes manufacturers should do more simulations, closed-course testing and actual on-road evaluations prior to releasing to the mass market. These systems need to perform more consistently in order to improve the driver experience and overall reliability and safety. AAA has met with industry leaders to provide insight from the testing experience and shared our recommendations for improvement.

Should Drivers Purchase Vehicles with Active Driving Assistance Systems?

While the adaptive cruise control functionality of the active driving assistance systems works well, lane keeping assistance struggles. Our advice is to look for a vehicle with adaptive cruise control but wait a few years until the technology improves before purchasing a vehicle with active driving assistance.

"Drivers must clearly understand how these systems work before integrating them into their regular driving," Cooper continued. "AAA recommends requesting a demonstration from the dealership as well as thoroughly reading the vehicle owner's manual and other information provided online by the automaker."

Tracking Drivers' Trust in Technology

AAA's 2020 automated vehicle survey found that only one in ten drivers (12%) 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. The insights are also shared with AAA members and the public to inform their driving experiences and vehicle purchase decisions.

AAA conducted closed-course testing and naturalistic driving in partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California's Automotive Research Center and AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah's GoMentum Proving Grounds. Using a defined set of criteria, AAA selected the following vehicles for testing: 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®" and were sourced from the manufacturer or directly from dealer inventory. The 2019 Cadillac CT6 and the 2019 Ford Edge were evaluated only within naturalistic environments. For specific methodology regarding testing equipment, closed-course test scenarios and naturalistic routes, please refer to the full report here.

About AAA - The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America with more than 14 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 60 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA's mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.