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Study tests the limits of driver-assist systems

November 4, 2020

Partnered with AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah

Man driving on highway in traffic with directions up on smart phone

From blind spot monitoring to collision warning and lane assistance, active driver assistance systems (ADAS) are widely available in new vehicles and can be a driver’s first or only interaction with vehicle automation. However, many drivers are unaware of the safety limitations of these systems. This is problematic, as research reveals they do not perform consistently, especially in real-word scenarios.

Based on the SAE International standard of autonomous driving levels, all tested vehicles were classified as Level 2, which means the features assist with steering, acceleration and braking but require the driver to be able to take control of driving at any moment.  

AAA automotive researchers found after 4,000 miles of real-world driving, vehicles equipped with ADAS experienced some type of issue every eight miles, on average. The most common issue occurred with lane keeping assistance, as vehicles would come too close to guardrails or other vehicles.

Research found active driving assistance systems, those that combine vehicle acceleration with braking and steering, often disengage with little notice – almost instantly handing control back to the driver, which can be a dangerous scenario for unsuspecting motorists. 

Closed-course testing was performed at AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah’s GoMentum Station proving ground, where it conducted scenario-based testing of active driving assistance systems. 

Testing found the systems performed mostly as expected but struggled when approaching a simulated disabled vehicle. When encountering this test scenario, a collision occurred 66% of the time and the average impact speed was 25 mph. On public roadways, nearly three-quarters (73%) of errors involved instances of lane departure or erratic lane position.

“Given the performance of these systems in our testing, it’s critical to educate consumers about the benefits of the technology but also where there’s room for improvement,” said Matt Alfano, Vice President of Mobility Innovation for GoMentum Station. “With consumer safety in mind, GoMentum is ready to help vehicle manufacturers improve this available technology while paving the way for the future of all mobility.”

As a result of these tests, AAA recommends manufacturers increase the scope of testing for active driving assistance systems and limit their roll out until functionality is improved to provide a more consistent and safer driver experience. The organization has met with industry leaders to provide insight from the testing experience and recommendations for improvement. 

AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah, which operates GoMentum Proving Grounds, is a partner of the Waymo-led public education campaign for autonomous vehicles, Let’s Talk Self-Driving. Waymo, a fully autonomous vehicle technology company, has emphasized its commitment to rigorous testing Waymo has driven 20 million miles on public roads to help ensure its vehicles can handle the core competencies of everyday driving without the aid of a human driver.

Let’s Talk Self-Driving works to raise awareness about the different levels of autonomy in vehicles and why it is so important for consumers to know the difference between driver assist features and fully autonomous systems.