Most Americans are still wary of self-driving cars—according to Reuters, more than two-thirds are not on board with the technology. In fact, a number of polls have indicated that most people are far more trusting of human drivers—even when those drivers are not necessarily the best. Interestingly, men of all ages, along with millennials are much more trusting of self-driving technology. That being said, most of us are fine with the newest vehicle systems which are meant to keep us safe—yet perhaps we should all be a bit more skeptical about these “safety” systems as well.
Warnings Regarding Driver Assist Systems
In a paper titled “Reality Check,” The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety issued a warning regarding driver assist systems. The warning stated that vehicles which implement driver assist systems could miss seeing a stopped vehicle, and, in some cases, could even steer the vehicle into a crash when the driver was not being vigilant. Driver assist systems from Volvo, BMW, Mercedes and Tesla were tested on a track and on open public roadways. The bottom line seemed to be that while these systems could potentially save lives, they could also fail to work as expected under many circumstances.
The two Tesla models—the Model S and the Model 3—turned in possibly the scariest results. In a test which turned the cruise control off and automatic braking on, both Teslas braked and avoided one crash, yet hit a stationary object. In both instances, once the adaptive cruise control was turned back on—the system which keeps a set distance from vehicles in front—the vehicles braked earlier and gentler, avoiding hitting the fixed object.
Vigilance Still Required Behind the Wheel
While the vehicle safety systems did actually increase safety in most cases, they were far from being 100 percent reliable. In fact, many of the lane-centering systems failed during the tests, particularly on a curve or a hill. When “autopilot” was added—lane-changing and automatic steering—collision claims were lowered. Despite this, experts say that even the owner’s manuals of the vehicles with safety systems caution drivers to pay attention when driving.
Top Vehicle Safety Systems
Consumer Reports lists the top vehicle safety systems as:
- AEB—Automatic Emergency Braking—a system which applies the brakes automatically when an imminent collision is detected, or to reduce the speed prior to a collision which cannot be avoided.
- BSW—Blind Spot Warning—a system which gives the driver an audible notification when a vehicle is in the blind spot, along with additional warnings when a turn signal is used and there is a car in the next lane which could be hit if you change lanes.
- FCW—Forward-Collision Warning—Both audible and visual warnings which alert drivers when a possible collision is detected.
- Rear AEB—Rear Automatic Emergency Braking—Sensors on the vehicle are triggered by rear cross-traffic or stationary items when the driver is backing up, and brakes applied.
- Rear cross-traffic warning system—If a vehicle is moving toward another vehicle, but is out of rear camera range, this system will provide a visual or audible notification to the driver to avoid a collision.
- LDW—Lane-Departure Warning—This system will alert the driver when lane markings are crossed—LKA, or Lane-Keeping Assist will provide automatic correcting steering or braking when lane markings are crossed and the driver does not correct.
- Adaptive Cruise Control uses lasers, cameras, radar or a combination to keep a consistent distance between the vehicle and the car ahead. When highway traffic slows, some of these systems will bring the car to a complete stop, automatically coming back to speed once traffic is moving again.
While all these safety systems can potentially reduce the number of crashes, the overarching theme seems to be that while these systems can be an invaluable tool for drivers to help avoid crashes, drivers need to remember that vehicle safety systems do not translate into self-driving cars. In other words, just because your car has the newest safety features, never forget that it is still your responsibility to actually drive the car.
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