By AI Trends Staff
A European safety assessment rated the Tesla sixth of ten driver assistance systems in its ability to keep drivers engaged, meaning actively engaged in the driving task as automation assists to some degree.
The Tesla Model 3’s Autopilot scored just 36 when assessed on its ability to maintain a driver’s focus on the road, according to a recent account from Reuters. The Tesla did receive high marks for performance and its ability to respond to emergencies, receiving an overall score of 131 and a rating of ‘moderate’.
The Mercedes GLE’s system had the highest overall score of 174, the top rating of ‘very good’ and a score of 85 for driver engagement. Most other vehicles had scores of 70 or above for driver engagement.
The European New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) worked with UK insurance group Thatcham Research to perform the assessment, which they called the first consumer ratings specifically focused on driver assistance systems, technology that automates some tasks, including acceleration, braking and steering support.
Safety and insurance researchers have frequently warned of the risks of consumers overestimating the systems’ abilities, a misconception increased by some automakers calling their products Autopilot (Tesla), ProPilot (Nissan) or CoPilot (Ford). (Others are Super Cruise (Cadillac), Drive Pilot (Mercedes Benz), Traffic Jam Pilot (Audi), Active Driving Assistant Professional (BMW), Highway Driving Assist (Kia) and Eyesight (Kia).)
The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has criticized Tesla’s Autopilot for enabling drivers to turn their attention from the road. US regulators have investigated 15 crashes since 2016 involving Tesla vehicles equipped with Autopilot.
“Unfortunately, there are motorists that believe they can purchase a self-driving car today. This is a dangerous misconception that sees too much control handed to vehicles that are not ready to cope with all situations,” stated Matthew Avery, a Euro NCAP board member and research director at Thatcham Research.
Europeans Ahead on Testing of Driver Assistance Systems
The US lags behind Europe in the testing of driver assistance systems, according to a recent account in Claims Journal, serving the insurance industry. The acting head of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced recently that the agency would be making changes this year to a testing program that assigns safety grades to vehicles.
“We’re raising the bar for safety technologies in our new vehicles,” stated acting NHTSA chief James Owens. The agency in December 2015 issued proposed rules for testing procedures that would be similar to more comprehensive testing done by European regulators. But no rules have been put forward since then. The NTSB has criticized NHTSA for its hands-off approach to overseeing driver assistance programs. The NTSB has compared NHTSA’s testing and rating proposals unfavorably to consumer safety systems put in place by European agencies.
Euro NCAP began rating automatic braking systems in 2014. It has been testing the performance of advanced cruise control, lane-centering systems and blind spot detection since 2018. Beginning this May, it began to grade how well a car’s system keeps the driver engaged.
The group is a non-governmental body but funded by some EU countries and also receives money from national motor clubs and insurers. The group shares testing methods with NHTSA and the NTSB on a regular basis.
In 2018, EU regulators required the installation of acoustic and visual warning signals for lane-keeping systems every 15 seconds if drivers take their hands off the wheel. As a result, Tesla had to issue a software update to its Autopilot system in the EU. A regulatory body is currently working on rules for more advanced hands-off systems that can control braking, acceleration, and lane changes at speeds of up to 60 km/h (37 mph).
Under draft EU rules, carmakers among other things need to show how the system safely hands control back to the driver, how the car monitors the road, and how it reacts in emergency situations.
The US currently has no rules for automated driver assistance systems. Automakers are allowed to self-certify that their vehicles comply with existing rules, according to University of South Carolina law professor Bryant Walker Smith, who focuses on automated driving.
AAA Testing Finds Automated Driver Assistance Systems to be Unreliable
A study by the American Automobile Association in the US found driver assistance systems to be unreliable, according to a recent account in Car and Driver.
AAA tested five 2019 and 2020 vehicles equipped with the most advanced technology each automaker had to offer. These included a 2019 BMW X7 with “Active Driving Assistant Professional,” a 2019 Cadillac CT6 with “Super Cruise,” a 2019 Ford Edge with “Ford Co-Pilot360,” a 2020 Kia Telluride with “Highway Driving Assist” and a 2020 Subaru Outback with “EyeSight.” All of these systems are regarded as Level 2 autonomous systems, meaning the driver is expected to remain aware while the system is in use.
The AAA testing showed that all five vehicles experienced on average one issue—such as the need for the driver to act quickly to keep the vehicle centered in a lane—every eight miles.
The safety benefits of such systems, the study concluded, are not reliable. The systems become dangerous when drivers over-rely on the technology and do not notice when the systems disengage—which they often do with little notice, AAA noted. Of all the errors that the systems made on open-road testing, 73% involved instances of lane departure or erratic lane position.
“Manufacturers need to work toward more dependable technology, including improving lane keeping assistance and providing more adequate alerts,” stated Greg Brannon, director of automotive engineering and industry relations at AAA, in a statement. “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.”
In the AAA study, the Cadillac CT6 experienced the fewest number of issues over the roughly 800 miles the vehicles each traveled, followed by the BMW X7, Subaru Outback, Kia Telluride, and Ford Edge. On the closed course portion of the test, the vehicles had difficulty when approaching a simulated disable vehicle, with a collision occurring two-thirds of the time.
“We know human error contributes to 94% of all crashes, which is why we are focused on advancing driver assist technologies that can help significantly enhance safety,” stated Wade Newton, the VP of communications at the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, to Car and Driver. “However, as we integrate these increasingly advanced driver assistance features into more vehicles, it is critical that drivers fully understand the system’s capabilities and limitations as well as their responsibilities.”