AAA: New Automobile Tech Confusion Could Cause Collisions

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(Photo: Courtney Corlew)

As Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) become standard equipment in all vehicles, they will have the potential to reduce the large number of fatalities and serious injuries that occur on U.S. roads today.

But confusion about how these systems work could lead to overreliance on technology and reduced emphasis on engaged driving, according to new research by AAA.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, ADAS could potentially prevent nearly 2.7 million crashes, more than a million injuries, and 9,500 deaths each year if it were installed on all vehicles – a big step forward in automotive safety. But these systems all perform very differently.

“Some systems are designed to prevent a specific type of crash, while others only attempt to reduce the severity of the impact or assist the driver in doing so,” says Matthew Conde, public affairs director for AAA. “Given the technology’s current limitations, drivers who completely turn their personal safety over to their cars are in for a bumpy ride.”

Blind spot monitoring: Nearly 80 percent of drivers did not know the technology’s limitations or incorrectly believed that the systems could monitor the roadway behind the vehicle or reliably detect bicycles, pedestrians, and vehicles passing at high speeds.

Forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking: Nearly 40 percent of motorists confused the two technologies, and roughly one in six vehicle owners said they did not know whether or not their vehicle was equipped with automatic emergency braking.

“There’s a big difference between forward collision warning, which alerts the driver to take action, and automatic emergency braking, where the car takes action on the driver’s behalf. There’s a similar distinction between lane departure warning and lane keeping assistance,” Conde said.  “The problems start when drivers aren’t sure what technology they have, or how it works.”

Blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert systems: About 25 percent of respondents said that they were comfortable relying solely on the technology without performing a visual check of their own.

Forward collision warning and lane departure warning systems: Roughly 25 percent of drivers who use these systems said they feel comfortable engaging in other tasks while driving.

Despite confusion surrounding the technology, 80 percent of drivers say they can rely on adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, and blind sport warning devices to keep them safe. Further, 70 percent of drivers are highly confident in forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane keeping assistance systems.

“These systems support good driving habits, and it’s great that more people are getting comfortable with the technology, but it isn’t time to replace vigilant drivers,” Conde said. “Motorists need to keep their eyes on the road and their minds focused on the task at hand.”  Drivers may also have to adapt to the presence or absence of certain ADAS technology in a friend’s car or rental car.

AAA calls on automakers to educate buyers about the safety capabilities and limitations of the vehicles they purchase. The goal is to establish a common vocabulary around the technology so that people know what to expect when they get behind the wheel.  According to Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, “Automakers have an important ethical responsibility to accurately market and carefully educate consumers.”

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