Advanced Driver Assistance systems still work poorly under certain conditions

Improved driver assistance systems are becoming more common but other road users struggle to keep drivers safe when they do something unexpected, according to a new study from AAA.

The Association Level 2 has tested a collection of vehicles from brands such as Tesla, Hyundai and Subaru with semi-autonomous features designed to help owners drive. In closed-course testing, it tried to find out how these vehicles performed when a car in their lane was driving slowly versus how an oncoming car was moving in their lane.

The results of the first test were encouraging, in 15 tests the vehicle moved slower and avoided collisions with the slower lead vehicle. The AAA described it as an “edge case”, although none of the 15 Test runs were able to avoid a head-on collision with an oncoming vehicle floating in their lane.

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ADAS systems have performed a little better in cycling tests, all avoiding cyclists traveling in the right direction in their lanes. When the bikes were sent perpendicular to the vehicle, though, as if a cyclist were trying to cross the road, a collision occurred 33 percent of the time and it wasn’t good enough, argued Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering.

“While it may be encouraging that these driving systems have successfully identified slow-moving cars and cyclists in the same lane, the failure to identify a crossing biker or an oncoming vehicle is alarming,” said Brannon. “A head-on crash is the most deadly type, and these systems should be optimized in situations where they can help the most.”

The association suggests that, despite claims that these systems are designed to reduce the burden of driving, experiments have shown that drivers must always be fully focused on driving to prevent an accident. Previous AAA experiments have shown that ADAS systems struggle in other areas, such as maintaining lane position on real-world roads.

In fact, it seems Brannan is not the only one who thinks systems are not sniffing. In the AAA poll, 77 percent of consumers said they were more interested in improving automakers’ existing safety systems than in the advent of self-driving cars. Since the company began studying automated driving features, 85 percent of consumers say they have become less skeptical about technology because they are not sure about self-driving cars.

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