BOISE – Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) offer the latest in vehicle technology, and according to new research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, they may also play a critical role in improving safety on the roads.

AAA estimates that the current level of ADAS technology may prevent 37 million crashes, 14 million injuries, and 250,000 deaths over the next 30 years, representing a 16% drop in crashes and injuries and a 22% reduction in deaths that would otherwise occur without these technologies.

That’s especially important, AAA says, because traffic-related deaths have been on the rise since the Covid-19 pandemic, with nearly 43,000 crash fatalities last year including nearly 200 here in Idaho.

“Vehicle tech is not a complete safety solution – well-designed roads, effective transportation planning and legislation, appropriate speed limits, courteous and attentive drivers, and other countermeasures are necessary, too,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde.  “Even so, it’s exciting to consider how many families could be spared from tragedy in the coming years.”

The future safety benefits of ADAS will be influenced by many factors, such as the effectiveness of the technology and the speed of its adoption and use.  However, AAA warns that no vehicle on the road today is equipped to take the place of an engaged human driver.

What are ADAS?

Advanced driver assistance systems, which rely on a combination of cameras, lidar and radar to “see” the road, detect obstacles, and assist the driver in maintaining a safe course, include:

  • Automatic emergency braking – applies the brake to minimize or avoid a crash
  • Forward collision warning and cross-traffic (back-up) warning – identifies imminent collisions and warns the driver to brake
  • Lane departure warning – notifies drivers when they drift from their lane
  • Lane keep assist – uses lane striping and GPS to help drivers maintain their vehicle’s position
  • Adaptive cruise control – allows the vehicle to travel at a constant speed while maintaining a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of it
  • Blind spot monitoring – alerts drivers to the presence of other vehicles, helping to prevent a sideswipe collision

During the study, AAA Foundation researchers applied 2017, Level 2 automated technology to the Federal Highway Administration’s traffic volume predictions for the next 30 years to estimate how many lives may be saved and how many crashes and injuries avoided.  The study focused on crash prevention, not on reducing severity alone.

“We applaud the driver assistance safety features that are available today.  As more vehicles with ADAS are sold, automakers will continue to invest in research and development, which will lead to even better technology that may offer even greater safety benefits,” Conde said.  “But the average vehicle in the U.S. automobile fleet is more than 12 years old, and it will take time for the technology to become a bit more widespread.”

While saving 250,000 lives is a great start, there’s a compelling reason to continue to develop the next generation of ADAS.  AAA estimates that if technology were locked in at today’s levels, more that 73 million people may still be injured in vehicle crashes over the next 30 years, with 850,000 lives lost.

“As always, we encourage new vehicle owners to gain a realistic understanding of what the current technology can and cannot do.  For example, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist won’t be able to resolve a roadway departure due to a loss of traction,” Conde said.  “Consult the vehicle owner’s manual and ask a salesperson to demonstrate your vehicle’s safety features before making a purchase decision.  We’re excited for a future where all road users reach their destination safely.”