AAA Study Finds Modern Driver-Assist Systems Aren't Reliable

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【Summary】In a study conducted by the American Automobile Association, modern driver-assist systems had an issue every eight miles. That makes them “far from 100% reliable.”

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Sep 14, 2020 7:00 AM PT
AAA Study Finds Modern Driver-Assist Systems Aren't Reliable

Nearly every car on the market has some kind of available driver-assist system. Whether it's standard or available through pricey packages, driver-assist systems have become commonplace on modern cars. The majority of drivers now search for vehicles with advanced safety features before making a purchase. Along with infotainment systems, advanced safety features are must-haves for consumers. But, as it turns out, modern driver-assist features aren't all that great.

Lane Keeping Assist Systems Are The Worst

The American Automobile Association (AAA) completed a study on modern driver-assist systems using five vehicles. Those included the 2019 BMW X7 with BMW's Active Driving Assistant Professional, 2019 Cadillac CT6 with Super Cruise, 2019 Ford Edge with Ford Co-Pilot360, 2020 Kia Telluride with the brand's Highway Driving Assist system, and 2020 Subaru Outback with EyeSight. Despite having odd names and different features, all of the systems fit neatly under the Level 2 classification on the SAE International's scale. That, according to the AAA, is the highest level of autonomy available to consumers today.

Over 4,000 miles of real-world testing, the AAA's researchers found that, on average, the driver-assist systems found in the five vehicles experienced an issue every eight miles. Lane-keeping assist systems that failed to keep cars in the desired lane and got too close to other vehicles or guardrails were trouble points. In fact, in the AAA's public and close-course testing, lane departure warning and lane keep assist systems were found to be the most troublesome. On public roads, these systems accounted for 73% of errors the researchers noted.

Adaptive cruise control systems that disengaged without properly alerting the driver were another sore area. As were forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control systems. During closed-course testing, the AAA found that driver-assist systems struggled to perform well when approaching a simulated disabled vehicle. In that specific test, a collision occurred 66% of the time with vehicles average 25 mph at impact.

What This Means For Autonomous Cars

Both problems are dangerous, with the AAA claiming that both pose a serious issue for drivers that aren't paying attention or have become too dependent on the systems. Since these systems are just classified as being Level 2, the AAA believes that automakers are on the hook to make major improvements. The organization states that the systems "are far from 100% reliable."

"AAA has repeatedly found that active driving assistance systems do not perform consistently, especially in real-world 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."

Modern active driving systems, like these Level 2 ones, are all meant to be safe ways to provide consumers with a look at fully autonomous cars. That has always been the end goal, right? Take drivers out of the equation and ensure computers have all of the control to make roads safer. Unfortunately, consumers won't be interested in autonomous vehicles if they have a negative experience with early driver-assist systems. The AAA's 2020 automated vehicle survey found that only 12 percent of drivers stated that they would trust going for a ride in an autonomous vehicle. 

"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."

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