Advanced Driver Assistance Systems

Self-Driving Cars

As we cruise toward a day of self-driving cars, we find ourselves relinquishing control of basic vehicle systems. Turning on lights, locking the doors, warning of obstacles behind the vehicle, maintaining speed and following distance – these are all tasks that can be managed automatically by the vehicle.

Advanced driver assistance systems increase a vehicle’s control – either independently of the driver, or by providing the driver with information to improve driving performance. These systems are very good at helping to avoid rear- collisions. There is a danger, however, that motorists may not fully grasp the limitations of these systems.

AAA’s Test-track Experience

To better understand the operation of advanced driver assistance systems, AAA conducted a test-track assessment of five vehicles equipped with adaptive cruise control and autonomous braking. These systems can alert a driver to a potential crash, adjust the vehicle’s pace to maintain a pre-set speed, and even brake independently to avoid a collision.

  • Overall, test-drives proved that adaptive cruise control did a good job of maintaining a specified following distance when traveling behind slower-moving vehicles in a highway setting. All vehicles responded as expected to a moving vehicle in the travel path.
  • Adaptive cruise control systems performed best when following more closely than AAA’s recommended three-second rule. Tracking a vehicle at highway speeds while navigating a mild curve was unexpectedly difficult, but improved when following distance was reduced.
  • Autonomous braking systems did not always recognize obstacles, provide a warning signal or engage the brakes to slow or stop the vehicle.
  • The ability to recognize obstacles varied between vehicles. The owner’s manuals for these vehicles warn that the systems may not recognize or react to motorcycles, a stopped vehicle, traffic cones or other obstructions.

Misperceptions Exposed

Consumers may expect advanced driver assistance systems to engage for any obstacle, which can pose a hazard if drivers rely on these systems in all circumstances. Reliance can turn to complacency, and suddenly an impending collision with a motorcycle surprises the driver who was texting because they were confident that the advanced driver assistance systems were in command.

Automakers have noted system limitations in owners’ manuals; however there are indications that motorists often do not fully read the manual. To get on the same page regarding advanced driver assistance systems’ limitations:

  • Automakers can enhance communication about these systems to make clear and obvious their limitations.
  • Motorists should become thoroughly familiar with all the technology in their car including advanced driver assistance systems before operating the vehicle.

Most Important for Safety

Regardless of the technological aspects of the car, an alert, engaged driver is the most important safety feature in the vehicle. Even a moment of distraction can be deadly because distracted drivers are slower to react. When an obstruction appears, the driver’s mental journey to fully re-engage and take necessary action consumes valuable reaction time.

Driver convenience solutions are not a license to be preoccupied or reckless behind the wheel. Advanced driver assistance systems do not equal autonomous vehicle operation; the driver is always in charge and responsible for safe vehicle operation.