Driving assistance technology continues to underperform in AAA tests

AAA experts said another round of testing of the driving assistance systems revealed more inconsistencies with their performance – resulting in crashes with simulated car and cyclist.

AAA researchers conducted the tests using the following three compounds:

  • 2021 Subaru Forester with “EyeSight®”

  • 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe with Highway Driving Assist

  • 2020 Tesla Model 3 with Autopilot

Each of these vehicles has active driving assistance systems, which combine the tasks of maintaining lane position, forward speed and the following distance from the vehicle in the same lane. This is also the highest level of vehicle automation available for purchase by the public. AAA noted that the technologies are not intended to replace the driver, and are not considered automated vehicles.

AAA tested how this technology responds to a series of real-world scenarios, including an oncoming car veering into the test car’s lane, and a cyclist crossing a street. The tests were conducted in an enclosed track, using a foam car – which looks like a small hatchback – and an adult cyclist’s dummy.

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Test results mixed:

  • Active Driving Assist successfully detects and consistently applies the brakes when approaching a slow-moving vehicle or a cyclist, moving in the same direction in the same lane.

  • However, all test cars collided with the foam car, while partially inside the test car’s travel lane. Only one test vehicle significantly reduced speed before impact on each round.

  • The collision occurred on 5 of 15 test rides, or 33% of the time, when the cyclist crossed the travel lane in front of the test vehicle.

“Collisiones that occurred during the AAA test could be fatal if they occurred in a real environment,” said AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins. “While driver assistance technology has made great strides to improve safety, it is still not perfect. That is why it is important for drivers to understand the limitations of their vehicle and to remain fully engaged while driving.”

AAA recommendations for automakers

  • AAA believes that manufacturers should improve existing active driving assistance systems to achieve more consistent performance before focusing on more advanced autonomous driving options.

  • Manufacturers should implement driver-focused camera monitoring systems that encourage continued driver interaction and discourage distractions.

AAA recommendations for drivers

  • Clearly understand how these systems work before incorporating them into your regular driving. Request a demonstration from your dealer and carefully read the vehicle’s owner’s manual and other information provided online by the automaker.

  • Understand that no car is completely autonomous. These systems cannot operate without the constant supervision of a driver willing to intervene.

Most Americans aren’t ready for self-driving vehicles

A new AAA survey shows that consumer distrust of self-driving vehicles remains high.

  • 85% are still afraid, or at least unsure about riding in self-driving cars.

Despite this frequency, consumers are showing a strong interest in existing vehicle safety systems such as:

  • Automatic emergency braking (63%)

  • Help keep track (60%)

“It’s hard to sell consumers the technology of the future if they don’t trust the present,” Jenkins said. “And drivers tell us they expect their current driving assistance technology to operate safely at all times. Unfortunately, our testing shows that choppy performance is the norm rather than the exception.”

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AAA believes that education and experience are key to greater acceptance of autonomous vehicles. To achieve this, AAA urges automakers to improve existing vehicle safety technology for consistent, reliable performance. When drivers interact with their vehicle’s safety systems, they may relate that experience to what it would be like to ride in a vehicle that drives itself.

Previous AAA studies on active driving assistance technology

This is the third round of AAA testing of active driving assistance technology in several years.

In 2020, AAA research found that vehicles using active driving assistance systems experienced some sort of problem every 8 miles on average. The researchers observed cases of problems with the systems that kept the test cars in their lanes and too close to other vehicles or guardrails.

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Last year, AAA research found that rain (bad weather) affected the cameras and sensors these systems use to “see,” causing parked vehicles to hit the lane in front of them 17%-33% of the time. In total, the test vehicles also drifted outside the lane markings 69% of the time.

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Consumer Survey Methodology

The AAA Consumer Survey was conducted January 13-16, 2022, using a probability-based panel to represent the general US population. The panel provides a sample coverage of approximately 97% of the US population. Most of the surveys are completed online; Consumers without internet access were surveyed by phone. A total of 1,107 interviews were conducted among US adults 18 years of age or older. The study error was 4% with a confidence level of 95%.

Vehicle Test Methodology

Closed-cycle testing was conducted at the AAA Test District in Northern California, Nevada, and GoMentum Station in Utah in Concord, California. Using a specific set of criteria, AAA selected the following vehicles for testing: 2021 Subaru Forester with “EyeSight®”, 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe with “Highway Driving Assist”, 2020 Tesla Model 3 with “Autopilot” and were obtained from the manufacturer or specialized rental fleets . Please refer to the full report for a specific methodology regarding test equipment and closed cycle test scenarios.

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