Safer Driver Assistance Tech Now More Important Than Self-Driving Cars, Consumers Say

Drivers overwhelmingly want automakers to improve existing driver support features before developing fully autonomous vehicles (AVs), and recent crash tests confirmed that inconsistent performance remains a problem with these semi-autonomous systems currently on the market.

Those are the main highlights of new research released on Thursday by the AAA automotive group.

“You can’t sell consumers on the future if they don’t trust the present,” Greg Brannon, director of AAA’s automotive engineering, said in a statement. “And drivers tell us they expect their current driving assistance technology to perform safely all the time. But unfortunately, our testing demonstrates spotty performance is the norm rather than the exception.”

The research findings were presented in the report “Active Driving Assistance System Performance May 2022,” based on the results of a consumer survey and recent crash tests.

The survey of 1,107 adults conducted earlier this year of consumer attitudes supported the continuing under performance of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS): most respondents (77% compared to 18% ) said they were more interested in improved vehicle safety systems than in self-driving cars.

The public’s skepticism of self-driving cars was reinforced by a series of new performance crash test results that found that vehicles with an active driving assistance system (also known as Level 2 systems) failed to consistently avoid crashes with another car or bicycle during 15 test runs.

For example, a head-on collision occurred during all 15 test runs for an oncoming vehicle within the travel lane; in only one test vehicle was speed significantly reduced before a crash on each run.

The vehicles used for the assessment included: a 2021 Subaru Forester with “EyeSight®;” a 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe with “Highway Driving Assist;” and a 2020 Tesla Model 3 with “Autopilot,” the AAA said, noting that the “failures occurred regardless of vehicle make and model.”

From the report:

“While the refinement of available active driving assistance systems improves, drivers must remain continuously engaged in the driving task. The research vehicles performed as expected during the closed-course testing for routine situations, such as approaching a slowing moving vehicle or bicyclist from behind. However, all test vehicles collided with either the simulated passenger car or the adult cyclist multiple times during “edge-case” testing, like a car approaching head-on or a bicyclist crossing directly in front of the test car.”

Brannon, the AAA’s director of automotive engineering, said the fact that the driving systems successfully spotted slow-moving cars and bicyclists in the same lane during evaluations was promising, but “the failure to spot a crossing bike rider or an oncoming vehicle is alarming.”

“A head-on crash is the deadliest kind, and these systems should be optimized for the situations where they can help the most,” he added.

The report indicated that consumer distrust of fully self-driving vehicles remains high: 85% said they were fearful or unsure of self-driving technology, and when transporting their children or loved ones, 85% also said they would not be comfortable with using a self-driving vehicle.

The automotive group said it “urges automakers to listen to consumers and improve what is currently available before focusing on future technology.”

To read the full report, click here.

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