ANCHORAGE, Alaska. Sept. 26, 2018. More drivers are using advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) available in today’s vehicles, but many motorists do not understand how to safely use these new, mostly automated technologies, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Consumers recognize value in ADAS technologies — such as blind spot monitoring, collision warning and lane assistance — but many are unaware of safety limitations. For example, researchers found that nearly 80 percent of drivers with blind spot monitoring had incorrect assumptions about the accuracy of the technology, believing it could detect vehicles passing at very high speeds, or bicycles and pedestrians.
“In reality, the technology can only detect a vehicle traveling in the driver’s blind spot, and many systems today do not reliably detect people walking or riding bikes,” said Michelle Donati, spokesperson for AAA Alaska. “If a driver doesn’t understand how their technology functions, they might rely on that system to detect safety issues that the technology wasn’t designed to find.”
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety commissioned researchers from the University of Iowa to survey drivers who recently purchased a 2016 or 2017 model-year vehicle with ADAS technologies. Researchers evaluated drivers’ opinions, awareness and understanding of these technologies and found that most did not know or understand the limitations of the systems:
Blind spot monitoring: 80 percent of drivers did not know the technology’s limitations or incorrectly believed that the systems could monitor the roadway behind the vehicle or reliably detect bicycles, pedestrians and vehicles passing at high speeds.
Forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking: nearly 40 percent of drivers did not know the system’s limitations, or confused the two technologies- incorrectly reporting that forward collision warning could apply the brakes in the case of an emergency when the technology is only designed to deliver a warning signal. Moreover, roughly one in six vehicle owners in the survey reported that they did not know whether or not their vehicle was equipped with automatic emergency braking.
“When properly utilized, ADAS technologies have the potential to prevent 40 percent of all vehicle crashes and nearly 30 percent of traffic deaths. However, driver understanding and proper use is crucial in reaping the full safety benefits of these systems,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Findings from this new research show that there is still a lot of work to be done in educating drivers about proper use of ADAS technologies and their limitations.”
False expectations for ADAS systems can easily lead to misuse of the technology or an increase in driver distraction. In the survey:
About 25 percent of drivers using blind spot monitoring or rear cross traffic alert systems report feeling comfortable relying solely on the systems and not performing visual checks or looking over their shoulder for oncoming traffic or pedestrians.
About 25 percent of vehicle owners using forward collision warning or lane departure warning systems report feeling comfortable engaging in other tasks while driving.
“New vehicle safety technology is designed to make driving safer, but it does not replace the important role each of us plays behind the wheel,” Yang continued. “The prospect of self-driving cars is exciting, but we aren’t there yet. Automakers have an ethical and important responsibility to accurately market, and to carefully educate consumers about the technologies we purchase in the vehicles we drive off the lot.”
As part of its ongoing traffic safety mission, new AAA Foundation research also evaluated the potential these popular advanced driver assistance technologies have in helping to reduce or prevent crashes. The findings show that if installed on all vehicles, ADAS technologies can potentially prevent more than 2.7 million crashes, 1.1 million injuries and nearly 9,500 deaths each year:
Despite the findings that show confusion about some ADAS technologies, at least 70 percent of vehicle owners report that they would recommend the technology to other drivers. The greatest proportion of drivers reported trusting blind spot monitoring systems (84 percent), followed by rear-cross traffic alert (82 percent), lane departure warning (77 percent), lane keeping assist (73 percent), forward collision warning (69 percent) and automatic emergency braking (66 percent).
These findings should prompt additional focus on the importance of educating new and used car buyers about how safety technologies work, according to AAA.
“Drivers need adequate training and effective educational resources that simply do not exist,” added Donati. “AAA is sharing this new research with vehicle manufacturers and other stakeholders to help establish effective education tools that will benefit car buyers. If strong consumer education about vehicle technology was as much a priority as making the sale, we would all reap the benefits.”
Only about half of the drivers who report purchasing their vehicle from a car dealership recalled being offered a training on the ADAS technology. However, for those who were, nearly 90 percent took advantage of the opportunity and completed the training.
AAA encourages drivers to understand their technology’s features, functions and limitations before leaving the lot:
Read your owner’s manual to learn what systems are installed in your vehicle.
Be an informed buyer: Ask plenty of questions about the alerts, functions, capabilities and limitations of the vehicle’s safety technologies before leaving the dealership. Insist on an in-vehicle demonstration and test drive to better understand how the systems will engage on the roadway.
About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org.
About AAA Alaska
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Michelle Donati/AAA Foundation