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New Report Tests Limits of Current ADAS

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Aug. 24, 2020—With the prospect of reducing around 80 percent of roadway crashes, AAA is testing the efficacy of certain ADAS systems as a stepping stone on the way to fully autonomous driving environments.

The organization is out with a new report on research of highway driving assistance features. AAA defines these features as “active driving assistance,” and includes lane keep assist, parking assistance, adaptive cruise control and emergency braking. These features integrate “both longitudinal and lateral motion control and [are] the most advanced semi-autonomous vehicle technology available to the consumer,” according to the report.

Some of these systems are standard on 10 percent of 2020 models, AAA says. They are either standard or optional on 34 percent of vehicles from that model year.


The Research

AAA tested five vehicles: a 2019 BMW X7; 2019 Cadeillac CT6; 2019 Ford Edge; 2020 Kia Telluride; and a 2020 Subaru Outback. Each had its own OEM ADAS system engaged.

The vehicles were outfitted with additional testing sensors to monitor the ADAS systems’ effectiveness. It was like the ADAS system had an ADAS system to keep itself in line.

AAA made sure that the systems were properly calibrated, the report notes.

The tests simulated various driving situations. Researchers measured how well the lane assist kept the vehicle within the lines. Other tests placed a stationary “disabled” vehicle halfway into the road to see how the systems would pick it up. They also simulated stop-and-go traffic situations.


The Findings

One important note from the report was that the owner’s manuals for each model were careful to lay down expectations. AAA found that those expectations were proved in testing. But what were the real limitations and triumphs?

When coming up on a disabled vehicle halfway into the road, all vehicles made contact with it “for at least one of the three runs.” Starting at 30 mph, the average impact speed was 24.5 mph after the system engaged. This reinforced the need for constant driver attention, which is universally advised in all of today’s ADAS systems.

After 4,000 miles of highway testing, AAA incurred 521 “events,” 73 percent of which were related to lane assist keeping the vehicle strictly within the lines. Researchers noted that, just as human eyes can have trouble seeing, ADAS cameras aren’t always able to pick up the road lines in all conditions. In more confusing situations, like changing road surfaces, exit ramps and sharp curves, lane assist failed to keep the vehicles within lanes.

In general, test researchers also found some ADAS systems to disengage without notice, and it was difficult to know what features were and weren’t engaged at times.


The Takeaways

The data aren’t necessarily surprising to owners of vehicles with ADAS systems. OEs still strongly advise that drivers should be fully attentive at all times when driving vehicles with these features. 

But the testing offers perspective on where the industry stands as it marches toward full automation. The tests presented gaps in the technology, such as the vehicle’s ability to see changing road conditions and qualities. There are also gaps in consumer awareness—both in terms of how well drivers incorporate ADAS systems into their normal driving habits and in the acceptance of growing automation that may come in the future. Americans are still slow to accept or trust automated systems.

In regards to that overall goal of crash reduction, however, AAA’s researchers say that progress is being made.

“While society waits to see if the widespread deployment of fully autonomous vehicles ultimately

becomes a reality, some advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are already contributing to a reduction in crash rates,” the report says.

In that sense, the ability of repairers to properly calibrate and repair these systems is a critical link in the operation of ADAS.

Image: AAA

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