Driver assistance systems far from flawless
According to the American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), driver assistance systems aren’t always right. It advises drivers to keep their hands permanently on the steering wheel and stay alert.
Electronic guardian angels, like lane keeping assist, automatic braking, etc. are there to aid the driver and improve safety. But practice testing by IIHS proved them wrong in too many circumstances.
IIHS tested lane keeping assist and automatic braking (alert stop) on five cars, of which those systems were earlier described as “superior”. They were installed in a BMW 5 Series, a Mercedes E, two Tesla’s (Model 3 and Model S) and a Volvo S90.
The results were disappointing. The BMW 5, the Tesla Model S and the Volvo S90 regularly trespassed the marked lines on country roads in twisty conditions, and the driver had to correct to stay in lane or on the road. Both Tesla cars couldn’t perform an automatic alert stop at 50 km/h before a big balloon functioning as a standing object on the test-track. In other situations the electric cars performed better than their three rivals.
Irritating or dangerous
The ways the systems were functioning were qualified from “irritating” to simply “dangerous”. In the first condition some cars started to brake unnecessarily because they considered tree shadows as barriers. In the latter situations the vehicles went out of their lane and trespassed continuous lines.
“We have found situations where semi-autonomous systems can endanger the well-being of the driver and his passengers”, said IIHS researcher, David Zuby, to Associated Press. He confirms the advice of the different manufacturers that one should maintain his hands on his steering wheel at all times. IIHS couldn’t confirm which car is coming out of the test as the best.
8.000 lives saved?
In an earlier study dating from 2010, IIHS concluded that driver assistance systems were able to save 8.000 lives every year. This hasn’t been proved in practice yet. In a recent report the transport department of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) remarked that it is very difficult to measure the degree of safety of those systems due to a lack of data.
Because manufacturers are also constantly changing and improving the systems it is very difficult to come to conclusions for a certain period in time. The American National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSC) has done some research with Tesla cars equipped or not with those systems. It reckons that 40% of possible accidents are avoided, but the research was done without a proper control group, so hard scientific conclusions couldn’t be drawn from it.