AAA Study Finds Misunderstanding, Misuse Of Driver Assistance Tech

Many drivers are unaware of the safety limitations of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) like blind spot monitoring systems, forward collision warning and lane keeping assist, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Its research indicates that nearly 80 percent of drivers with blind spot monitoring systems were unaware of limitations or incorrectly believed that the system can accurately detect vehicles passing at very high speeds or bicycles and pedestrians. However, the technology can only detect when a vehicle is traveling in a driver’s blind spot and many systems do not reliably detect pedestrians or cyclists.

“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 David Yang, executive director of the foundation. “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.”

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety commissioned researchers from the University of Iowa to survey drivers who purchased a 2016- or 2017 model-year vehicle with ADAS technology. Researchers evaluated drivers’ opinions, awareness and understanding of the technology and found that most do not know or understand the limitations of the systems.

For example, nearly 40 percent of drivers did not know the limitations of forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems, or confused the two, believing 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. Additionally, roughly one in six vehicle owners did not know whether or not their vehicle was equipped with automatic emergency braking.

“With ADAS technologies offering proven safety benefits when properly used, it is important that automakers and others play a greater role in educating motorists about the technology available in the vehicles they purchase,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy and research.

According to AAA, false expectations for ADAS systems can 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 reported feeling comfortable relying solely on the systems and not performing visual checks or looking over their shoulder for oncoming traffic or pedestrians. And, about 25 percent of vehicle owners using forward collision warning or lane departure warning systems reported 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 said. “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.”

Despite the confusion about some ADAS systems, at least 70 percent of vehicle owners reported 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).

Only about half of the drivers who reported purchasing their vehicle from a car dealership recalled being offered training on the ADAS technology. However, for those who were, nearly 90 percent said they took advantage of the opportunity and completed the training.

“The training drivers need to properly use the safety technologies in their vehicles is not currently offered,” Nelson said. “If educating consumers about vehicle technology was as much a priority for the automakers and dealers as making the sale, we would all reap the benefits.”