When you walk into a San Diego car dealership, you’ll be told that the 2021 models look better, go faster, stop quicker and use less fuel than vehicles of the past. Salespeople will also tell you that new cars, pick-ups and SUVs equipped with advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) are also safer than ever.
What car-buyers want to know
You’ll be told that the cutting-edge technology in ADAS will alert you to traffic hazards, automatically help guide your vehicle and sometimes take action on its own (such as emergency braking) to keep you and your passengers out of motor vehicle crashes. It’s a great sales pitch, but the question people want to be answered is this: Do advanced driver-assist systems really work?
According to a recent study by AAA of five vehicles equipped with ADAS, the safety systems are unreliable and prone to disengaging with little notice. The organization says automakers have to focus on further development of the tech to make it dependable and trustworthy.
Examples of promised assistance
Advanced driver-assist systems use a combination of cameras, sensors and processors to provide a wide variety of features, including:
- Automatic emergency braking
- Lane-keeping guidance
- Collision warnings (forward and rear)
- Adaptive cruise control
- Distance control
- Blind-spot detection
- Pedestrian detection
- Road-sign recognition
The tested vehicles were the Ford Edge with its ADAS called “Ford Co-Pilot360,” the 2019 BMW X7 and its “Active Driving Assistant Professional,” the 2020 Kia Telluride with “Highway Driving Assist,” the 2019 Cadillac CT6 with “Super Cruise” and the 2020 Subaru Outback with “EyeSight.” Each was driven about 800 miles in a mix of open-road and closed-course conditions.
AAA found that its drivers needed to be alert and ready to act at all times because of lapses in ADAS assistance. The organization said vehicles averaged a lapse that required driver action every 8 miles. The most common occurrences were in lane guidance and lane positioning.
“AAA has repeatedly found that active driving assistance systems do not perform consistently, especially in real-world scenarios,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering.
When ADAS were tested on closed-course tracks, “the systems performed mostly as expected” – with a glaring exception: when test vehicles approached a simulated disabled vehicle. In those test situations, AAA said, the ADAS-equipped vehicles struggled badly: “a collision occurred 66 percent of the time and the average impact speed was 25 mph.,” AAA said.
That disturbing failure rate makes it clear why AAA cautions drivers in ADAS-equipped vehicles to remain attentive, engaged and ready to act. Drivers who become reliant on the systems can find themselves in dangerous situations.