Names like Autopilot, ProPILOT and Pilot Assist are leading 40 percent of Americans to believe that cars with partially automated driving systems have the ability to drive themselves, according to a new survey from AAA.
And tests carried out by AAA not only confirm that these systems are not designed to take over the task of driving, but that such systems can be significantly challenged by real-world conditions such as poor lane markings, unusual traffic patterns and even stationary vehicles.
“With today’s exciting advances in vehicle technology, there is a greater need for naming that clearly signals to a driver what the system does,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s Director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “Vague or confusing terminology may lead someone to overestimate a system’s capability, unintentionally placing the driver and others on the road at risk.”
In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA tested four vehicles with technologies such as adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist. In typical driving situations the technology generally performed as expected. However, some situations caused the systems to act in an unpredictable manner, requiring driver intervention to avoid a potential collision. These scenarios included moderate traffic, curved roadways and streets with busy intersections.
Researchers noted many instances where the test vehicle experienced issues such as lane departures, hugging lane markers, “ping-ponging” within the lane, inadequate braking, unexpected speed changes and inappropriate following distances. Nearly 90 percent of events requiring driver intervention were due to the test vehicle’s inability to maintain lane position.
“Both real-world and closed-course testing exposed separate yet equally serious limitations with these systems,” said Brannon. “It reinforces that there is still much work to be done to educate consumers on the nuances between system names and functionality and that it is much too early to refer to these vehicle technologies as automated.”
AAA encourages drivers to educate themselves by requesting a demonstration at the dealership as well as thoroughly reading the vehicle owner’s manual. As the technology becomes more prevalent, AAA says standardized naming across vehicles that clearly reflects how technology functions will be needed.