Active Driver Assistance Systems Interfere More Than They Help

Performance issues are still common with ADAS.

A woman makes adjustments on a car dashboard touchscreen before driving.
Only 12 percent of drivers would feel comfortable riding in a self-driving car, according to the AAA report.
riopatuca / Shutterstock

Vehicles equipped with active driving assistance systems experienced some type of issue every 8 miles, on average, over the course of 4,000 miles of real-world driving by AAA automotive researchers. Active driving assistance are advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that provide the highest level of automated vehicle technology available to the public today, and they are currently far from 100 percent reliable.

During the study, the systems had trouble keeping the vehicles in their lane, and the vehicles also came too close to other vehicles or guardrails. Active driving assistance systems, those that combine vehicle acceleration with braking and steering, often disengaged with little notice and almost instantly handed control back to the driver—a dangerous scenario if a driver isn't prepared or is too dependent on the system.

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

AAA tested the functionality of active driving assistance systems in both real-world conditions and in a closed-course setting to determine how well they responded to common driving scenarios. On public roadways, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of errors involved instances of lane departure or erratic lane position. The closed-course testing found that the systems performed mostly as expected, but they were particularly challenged when approaching a simulated disabled vehicle. In this scenario a collision occurred 66 percent of the time and the average impact speed was 25 mph.

“Active driving assistance systems are designed to assist the driver and help make the roads safer, but the fact is these systems are in the early stages of their development,” added Brannon. “With the number of issues we experienced in testing, it is unclear how these systems enhance the driving experience in their current form. In the long run, a bad experience with current technology may set back public acceptance of more fully automated vehicles in the future.”

The 2020 automated vehicle survey from AAA found that only one in 10 drivers (12 percent) would trust riding in a self-driving car. To increase consumer confidence in future automated vehicles, it is important that car manufacturers perfect functionality as much as possible before adding them to a larger fleet of vehicles. AAA recommends manufacturers increase the scope of testing for active driving assistance systems and limit their rollout until functionality is improved to provide a more consistent and safe driver experience,

AAA has met with industry leaders to provide insight from the tests and recommendations for improvement. In the meantime, drivers should stay constantly aware and engaged when using the current technology.