Insurance Institute Says Driver Assistance Systems Have Safety Concerns

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【Summary】A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) finds level 2 driver assistance technologies aren’t as safe as claimed.

Mia Bevacqua    Aug 19, 2018 10:00 AM PT
Insurance Institute Says Driver Assistance Systems Have Safety Concerns

These days, almost every new vehicle has a driver assistance system. Even bargain-priced, entry-level econoboxes have features like adaptive cruise control, and lane keep assist. Since these technologies are everywhere, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) thought it would be a good idea to test them. And what the organization found wasn't pretty.

The IIHS analyzed five vehicles: a 2017 BMW 5-Series, 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, 2018 Volvo S90, 2016 Tesla Model S and a Tesla Model 3. Each car was equipped with its brand of level 2 autonomous drive assistance technology. At grade two, vehicles have adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist, which is what the Institute tested. 

In its paper, entitled "Reality Check" the IIHS divulged its findings. 

On a closed course, most of the vehicles behaved themselves, except for the Tesla cars. Both the Model S and Model 3 hit a stationary balloon at 31 miles per hour, with adaptive cruise control turned off and automatic braking on. To be fair, the cars did much better with cruise turned on and were able to avoid the helium-filled inflatables. 

When the vehicles moved out onto real-world roads things got even worse. All of the cars, except the Model 3, failed to respond to vehicles stopped ahead of them. And even the little Tesla had issues – it was overly cautious. 

"In 180 miles, the car (Tesla Model 3) unexpectedly slowed down 12 times, seven of which coincided with tree shadows on the road," the IIHS report recounts. "The others were for oncoming vehicles in another lane or vehicles crossing the road far ahead."

Oops. Such braking isn't dangerous, of course, but it is irritating. 

Problems also ensued when it came time to test the vehicles lane keep assistance systems. At one time or another, each of the cars had a hard time "keeping it between the lines". 

Of course, level 2 autonomy is designed to help drivers, not replace them. The vehicles owner's manuals spell that out explicitly. So if a Tesla Model 3, fails to stop and hits a balloon, who's really to blame? The car and its electronics, or the person who didn't read their owner's manual? 

sources: IEE Spectrum, abc, CNBC

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