There’s a lot to look forward to when it comes to fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) like safer roads, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, less traffic, and more time for riders, to name a few. However, while we are on our way towards that future, we aren’t quite there yet, as a new AAA research report makes clear. The report looked at how well active driving assistance systems (ADAS) perform in real-life road tests. What they found was not encouraging for consumers hoping for hands-free drives soon.
AAA Study Results
There were five models used for the tests: 2020 Kia Telluride with Highway Driving Assist, 2019 Cadillac CT6 with Super Cruise™, 2019 Ford Edge with Ford Co-Pilot360™, 2019 BMW X7 with Active Driving Assistant Professional, and 2020 Subaru Outback with EyeSight®. On average, AAA researchers found that over 4,000 miles, vehicles equipped with ADAS experienced an issue roughly every eight miles.
The majority of noted issues, 73%, pertained to lane-function, specifically lane departure and erratic lane position. Under these headings, drivers noted problems such as abrupt disengagement (sometimes at critical moments), failure to engage, “ping-ponging” within a lane, erroneous assumption of driver inattention, and uncomfortable closeness to other drivers or guardrails.
There was one silver lining; generally, they found that the adaptive cruise functions performed well. However, all the test drivers concluded that the combination of adaptive cruise and lane-keeping functions did not enhance the driving experience. In fact, many noted that the extra human monitoring of ADAS led to increased driver workload.
An earlier eye-tracking study cited by the AAA report showed that when drivers interface with ADAS, they tend to spend more time looking off-road and engaged in non-driving related tasks. When paired with this current study, which shows the need for active driver attention when using current ADAS technology, the authors worry that serious collisions might occur. They recommend that, as is, ADAS should be used with constant driver supervision until manufacturers make significant improvements to the technology.
Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering and industry relations, said in a release, “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. 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.”
This is a real worry, as already feelings toward AV technology has been lukewarm. In a 2020 survey, AAA found that only about 12% of the population would be comfortable driving in a fully autonomous vehicle. Since ADAS is the latest in Section 2 AV tech, it represents what AV is and can be for many drivers. For these reasons, manufacturers need to get it right if they want support for more AV features going forward.
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