Active Driving Assist Does Not Assist, AAA Study Finds


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Credit: AAA.

We think all the new driver assist features are helping us, but are they? While they are designed to, they don’t always, according to new research from the American Automobile Association.

In a new study, AAA automotive researchers found that driving assist features do less to assist drivers and more to interfere. In testing, they say over the course of 4,000 miles of real-world driving, vehicles equipped with active driving assistance systems experienced some type of issue every 8 miles, on average. Most of the issues involved lane centering, specifically with keeping the vehicles tested in their lane and not coming too close to other vehicles or guardrails.

Vehicles Tested:

Using a defined set of criteria, AAA selected the following vehicles for testing: 2019 BMW X7 with “Active Driving Assistant Professional”, 2019 Cadillac CT6 with “Super Cruise™”, 2019 Ford Edge with “Ford Co-Pilot360™”, 2020 Kia Telluride with “Highway Driving Assist” and 2020 Subaru Outback with “EyeSight®” and were sourced from the manufacturer or directly from dealer inventory.


In testing, AAA researchers say they also found issues with systems that combine vehicle acceleration with braking and steering, saying they often disengage without much notice – almost instantly handing control back to the driver. Researchers call it a dangerous scenario if a driver has become disengaged from the driving task or has become too dependent on the system. 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 safer driver experience.

Active driving assistance, classified as Level 2 driving automation on a scale of six (0-5) created by the SAE International, are advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that provide the highest level of automated vehicle technology available to the public today. This means for a majority of drivers, their first or only interaction with vehicle automation is through these types of systems, which according to AAA, are far from 100% reliable.


“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%) of errors involved instances of lane departure or erratic lane position.

While AAA’s closed-course testing found that the systems performed mostly as expected, they were particularly challenged when approaching a simulated disabled vehicle.

  • When encountering this test scenario, in aggregate, a collision occurred 66% of the time and the average impact speed was 25 mph.


Lane Departure - Erratic Lane Positioning - Failure to slow/stop
In testing on public roadways, nearly three-quarters (73%) of errors involved instances of lane departure or erratic lane position. Credit: AAA.

“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.”

It also looks like there is still a long way to go for the public to trust self-driving cars. AAA’s 2020 automated vehicle survey found that only one in ten drivers (12%) would trust riding in a self-driving car.

Study Methodology


AAA conducted closed-course testing and naturalistic driving in partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center and AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah’s GoMentum Proving Grounds. The 2019 Cadillac CT6 and the 2019 Ford Edge were evaluated only within naturalistic environments.
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