BREAKING NEWS

Driving assistance tech continues to underperform in AAA tests

AAA tested how this technology responds to a series of real world scenarios, including an oncoming car veering into the test car’s traffic lane, and a bicyclist crossing the street. (Provided by AAA)

AAA experts said another round of testing for driving assistance systems revealed more inconsistencies with their performance -- resulting in crashes with a simulated car and bicyclist.

AAA researchers conducted the tests using the following three vehicles:

  • 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 combines the tasks relating to maintaining lane position, forward speed, and following distance from the vehicle within the same lane. This is also the highest level of vehicle automation available for purchase by the public. The technologies are not meant to replace the driver, nor are they considered automated vehicles, AAA pointed out.

AAA tested how this technology responds to a series of real-world scenarios, including an oncoming car veering into the test car’s traffic lane, and a bicyclist crossing the street. The tests were conducted on a closed course, using a foam car -- similar to a small hatchback -- and an adult bicyclist dummy.

Test results were mixed:

  • The active driving assistance system successfully and consistently detected and braked when approaching a slower-moving vehicle or bicyclist, moving in the same direction in the same lane.
  • However, all test vehicles collided head-on with the foam car, while it was partially within the test car’s travel lane. Only one test vehicle significantly reduced speed before colliding on each run.
  • A collision occurred 5 out of 15 test runs, or 33% of the time, when a cyclist crossed the travel lane in front of the test vehicle.

“The collisions that occurred during AAA testing could be deadly if they happened in a real-world setting,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins. “While driver assistance technology has made great strides for improving safety, it’s still not perfect. That’s why it’s important for drivers to understand their vehicle’s limitations and stay fully engaged while behind the wheel.”

AAA Recommendations for Automakers

  • AAA believes manufacturers should improve existing active driving assistance systems to perform more consistently before focusing on more advanced, self-driving options.
  • Manufacturers should implement driver-focused camera monitoring systems that encourage continual driver engagement and discourage distractions.

AAA recommendations for Drivers

  • Clearly understand how these systems work before integrating them into your regular driving. Request a demonstration from the dealership and thoroughly read the vehicle owner’s manual and other information provided online by the automaker.
  • Understand that no car is fully autonomous. These systems cannot perform without constant supervision from a driver who is ready to intervene.

Most Americans are Not Ready for Self-Driving Vehicles

A new AAA survey reveals consumer distrust of fully self-driving vehicles remains high.

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

Despite this hesitation, consumers show strong interest in existing vehicle safety systems like:

  • Automatic emergency braking (63%)
  • Lane-keeping assistance (60%)

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

AAA believes education and experience are the keys to greater acceptance of self-driving vehicles. To achieve this, AAA urges automakers to improve existing vehicle safety technology to perform consistently and dependably. When drivers interact with the safety systems on their vehicle, they may equate this experience with what it would be like to ride in a car that drives itself.

Previous AAA Studies on Active Driving Assistance technology

This is the third round of testing AAA has conducted on Active Driving Assistance technology in as many years.

In 2020, AAA research found that vehicles using Active Driving Assistance Systems experienced some type of issue every 8 miles on average. Researchers noted instances of trouble with the systems keeping the test vehicles in their lane and coming too close to other vehicles or guardrails.

Last year, AAA research found that rain (bad weather) affected the cameras and sensors these systems use to “see”, resulting in a crash with stopped vehicles in the lane ahead 17%-33% of the time. In aggregate, test vehicles also veered outside of the lane markers 69% of the time.

Consumer Survey Methodology

The AAA consumer survey was conducted on January 13-16, 2022, using a probability-based panel to represent the U.S. household population overall. The panel provides sample coverage of approximately 97% of the U.S. household population. Most surveys were completed online; consumers without Internet access were surveyed over the phone. A total of 1,107 interviews were conducted among U.S. adults 18 years of age or older. The margin of error for the study is 4% at the 95% confidence level.

Vehicle Testing Methodology

Closed course testing occurred at AAA Northern California, Nevada, and Utah’s GoMentum Station proving ground in Concord, California. Using a defined 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 sourced from the manufacturer or specialty rental fleets. Please refer to the full report for specific methodology regarding testing equipment and closed-course test scenarios.