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November 15, 2018
What’s in a Name? "Partially Automated" Vehicles Still Need Fully Engaged Drivers

Four-in-ten Americans misjudge semi-autonomous driving systems’ ability based on their name

BURNSVILLE, Minn. (November 15, 2018) — They say it’s all in the name, but that can be deceiving. According to a new AAA survey, 40 percent of Americans expect vehicles with semi-autonomous driving systems, with names like Autopilot, ProPILOT or Pilot Assist, to have the capability to drive themselves. These systems consist of features like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, and automated braking/accelerating in stop and go traffic, which requires the driver to have their hands on the wheel. As this type of technology becomes more commonplace on the road, AAA cautions consumers not to take vehicle system names at face value and, although meant to assist in the driving task, they should never be used as a replacement for driver engagement.
 
“It is important that consumers understand what technology their vehicle has, and how it performs,” said Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs for AAA - The Auto Club Group. “Technology will continue to be a driving force regarding the future of transportation, but motorists still have a responsibility to be an engaged driver.”
 
In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA tested four vehicles equipped with systems that combine technologies such as adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist to help maintain lane position, forward speed and following distance in relation to a lead vehicle. Closed-course and on-road testing evaluated performance in typical driving situations where the technology generally behaved as expected. However, there were a number of instances in both environments that caused these systems to act in an unpredictable manner, requiring driver intervention to avoid a potential collision.
 
While driving on public roadways, AAA found test vehicles struggled when encountering scenarios that included moderate traffic, curved roadways and streets with busy intersections. Researchers noted many instances where the test vehicle experienced issues like lane departures, hugging lane markers, “ping-ponging” within the lane, inadequate braking, unexpected speed changes and inappropriate following distances. AAA’s study also revealed that nearly 90 percent of events requiring driver intervention were due to the test vehicle’s inability to maintain lane position. The irregular and complex nature of the real-world driving environment revealed the vulnerabilities of this technology. AAA’s testing found the systems generally performed best on open freeways and freeways with stop and go traffic.
 
During closed-course testing, common driving situations were simulated such as staying within the lane at 45 mph, following a distracted or impaired driver, encountering a commercial vehicle, for example, a tow truck, or contending with a vehicle that suddenly changed lanes to reveal a stationary vehicle. All test vehicles were able to successfully maintain lane position as well as recognize and react to the presence of the tow truck with little to no difficulty. However, in the scenario where a lead vehicle changed lanes to reveal a stationary one, three out of the four test vehicles required driver intervention to avoid an imminent crash. In general, this scenario is a stated limitation of these systems; however, it is a relatively common occurrence on roadways and could take those drivers by surprise who have become too reliant on the technology.
 
In order to reduce the misuse of semi-autonomous vehicle systems, AAA encourages drivers to educate themselves by requesting a demonstration at the dealership as well as thoroughly reading the vehicle owner’s manual. As this technology becomes more prevalent, standardized naming across vehicles that clearly reflects how technology functions will be necessary. Greater consistency across the industry will help consumers understand the type of technology their vehicle has along with how, when and where to use these systems.
 
To assess the capabilities of semi-autonomous vehicle systems, AAA conducted primary research in partnership with the Automotive Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center in Los Angeles, California. Track testing was conducted on closed surface streets on the grounds of Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California and was rented by AAA for independent testing. Public highway evaluation was conducted on surface streets, highways and limited-access freeways throughout the greater Los Angeles area.
 
Four test vehicles were selected (2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, 2018 Nissan Rogue, 2017 Tesla Model S and 2019 Volvo XC40) using specific criteria and each test vehicle was outfitted using industry?standard instrumentation, sensors and cameras to capture vehicle dynamics, position data and braking intervention. Complete methodology can be found in the full research report at newsroom.aaa.com.

The consumer survey was conducted October 4–7, 2018, using two probability samples: randomly selected landline telephone and mobile (cell) phone numbers. The combined sample consisted of 1,003 adults (18 years old and older) living in the continental U.S. The margin of error for the study is 4% at the 95% confidence level. Smaller subgroups will have larger error margins.
 
About The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, insurance, financial services and travel offerings to over 9.6 million members across eleven states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 59 million members in the United States and Canada and whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety.  New auto insurance products are available in Florida.  Features include: Enhanced Total Loss Coverage, AAA Membership Discount, Disappearing Deductible and much more!
 

Contact(s):

Nick Jarmusz
phone: 608-828-2495

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