AAA Study Says Driver Assistance Systems Need Work, Unreliable

AAA finds that active driver assistance systems do less to help drivers and more to interfere

ORLANDO, Fla. (Aug.6, 2020) – AAA automotive researchers have found that during 4,000 kilometers of real-world driving, vehicles equipped with active driver assistance systems encountered a problem every 8 miles, on average. Researchers noted cases of problems with systems keeping tested vehicles in their lane and getting too close to other vehicles or guardrails. AAA has also found that active driver assistance systems, those that combine vehicle acceleration with braking and steering, often disengage without warning – almost instantly returning control to the driver. A dangerous scenario if a driver has disengaged from the driving task or has become too dependent on the system. AAA recommends that manufacturers expand the scope of testing of active driver assistance systems and limit their deployment until functionality is improved to provide a more consistent and safer driving experience.

Active Driving Assistance, classified as Level 2 Driving Automation on a six (0-5) scale created by SAE International, are advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that provide the highest level of automated vehicle technology available to the public today. This means that for a majority of drivers, their first or only interaction with vehicle automation is through these types of systems, which AAA says are far from 100% reliable.

“AAA has repeatedly found that active driver assistance systems do not perform consistently, especially in real life scenarios,” said Greg Brannon, director of automotive engineering and industry relations . “Manufacturers need to work on more reliable technology, including improving lane keeping assistance and providing more adequate alerts.”

AAA tested the functionality of active driver assistance systems in real conditions and in a closed setting to determine how well they responded to common driving scenarios. On public roads, nearly three-quarters (73%) of errors concerned cases of lane departure or erratic lane position. While AAA’s closed-course testing revealed that the systems were mostly performing as intended, they were particularly challenged when approaching a simulated disabled vehicle. When meeting this test case, overall a collision occurred 66% of the time and the average impact speed was 25 mph.

“Active driver assistance systems are designed to help the driver and help make roads safer, but the point is, these systems are in their early stages of development,” Brannon added. “Given the number of issues we encountered during testing, it’s unclear how these systems improve the driving experience in their current form. In the long run, a bad experience with current technology can delay public acceptance of more fully automated vehicles in the future. “

The AAA 2020 Automated Vehicle Survey found that only one in ten (12%) drivers would trust a self-driving car. To increase consumer confidence in future automated vehicles, it is important that automakers refine features – such as the active driving assistance systems available now – as much as possible before deploying them in a larger fleet of vehicles. . AAA met with industry leaders to provide insight into the testing experience and recommendations for improvement. Ideas are also shared with AAA members and the public to inform their driving experiences and vehicle purchasing decisions.


AAA has conducted closed-course testing and naturalistic driving in partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center and AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah’s GoMentum Proving Grounds. Using a defined set of criteria, AAA selected the following vehicles for testing: 2019 BMW X7 with “Active Driving Assistant Professional”, 2019 Cadillac CT6 with “Super Cruise ™”, 2019 Ford Edge with “Ford Co-Pilot360 ™” , 2020 Kia Telluride with “Highway Driving Assist” and 2020 Subaru Outback with “EyeSight®” and come from the manufacturer or directly from dealer inventory. The 2019 Cadillac CT6 and the 2019 Ford Edge were evaluated only in naturalistic environments. For specific methodology regarding test equipment, closed-circuit test scenarios, and naturalist routes, please view the full report here.

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