Driving Assistance Systems May Create More Risks Than They Solve: Study

Estimated read time 3 min read
  • A new study found that driver-assistance systems may create new safety risks.
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested 14 automation systems across nine manufacturers.
  • Eleven out of 14 systems failed. 

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Self-driving cars may be the way of the future, but the current technology that allows vehicles to “automatically assist” drivers still has a long way to go before making the roads safer.

Driver-assistance systems have been billed as a tool to help make long drives safer, but a new study found the technology can actually create new safety risks by more easily allowing a driver’s attention to wander.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an independent organization committed to reducing deaths and injuries from car crashes, tested 14 driving automation systems across nine manufacturers, including BMW, Ford, General Motors, Genesis, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Tesla, and Volvo.

Nearly all of the systems scored low marks.

Automated systems typically help control steering and speed while sometimes allowing a driver to go “hands-free.”

The study, which evaluated a system’s driver monitoring, attention reminders, and emergency procedures, found that there’s no evidence partial automation makes driving safer.

Vehicles tested in the study could score a “good,” “acceptable,” “marginal,” or “poor” rating with regard to their automation safety features.

Not one of the 14 vehicles received an overall “good” score. The Lexus Teammate with Advanced Drive was the only car to score “acceptable,” while the GM Super Cruise and Nissan ProPilot Assist with Navi-Link scored “marginal.”

Other models from BMW, Ford, Genesis, Lexus, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Tesla, and Volvo all scored “poor” on the test.

The Tesla Full Self-Driving (Beta) system scored “poor” marks across every category except two, as did the Tesla Autopilot system.

The study tested several aspects of an automated system, including driver monitoring, attention reminders, emergency procedures, lane change, adaptive cruise control resume, cooperative steering, and safety features.

The test protocol was performed on closed test tracks and on the street.

A spokesperson for Genesis told Business Insider that the company was aware of the study and is “quickly implementing” improvements to its system, even as it remains one of the leaders in IIHS testing. 

A spokesperson for Mercedes-Benz said the company takes the study’s findings very seriously, while stressing that the test focused not on the performance of the driver assistance systems, but on its safeguards to prevent misuse. 

Representatives for the other seven automobile companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the study.

A Ford spokesperson previously told BI that the company’s Blue Cruise technology was “highly effective” and said that it would take the study’s findings into consideration as it continues to evolve.